Split-flap display

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Flap display as departure board in Hannover railway station, Germany
A flap display in Taipei Railway Station, Taiwan
Section of a split-flap display board at Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof (taken April 2005).
Schematic of a split-flap display in a digital clock display
Flap departure board at Gare du Nord (Paris)
Enlarged inner workings of a split-flap clock
The main departure board "Signaltron" produced by "Pragotron", at the vestibule of Praha-Smíchov station, Czech Republic
Split-flap display with the name of the end station on the tram Tatra KT8D5 in Prague, Czech Republic

A split-flap display, or sometimes simply flap display, is an electromechanical display device that presents changeable alphanumeric text, and occasionally fixed graphics.

Often used as a public transport timetable in airports or railway stations, as such they are often called Solari boards after display manufacturer Solari di Udine from Udine, Italy, or in Central European countries they are called Pragotron after the Czech manufacturer.

Split-flap displays were once commonly used at consumer scale in devices known as flip clocks.

Description[edit]

Each character position or graphic position has a collection of flaps on which the characters or graphics are painted or silkscreened. These flaps are precisely rotated to show the desired character or graphic. These displays are often found in railway stations and airports, where they typically display departure or arrival information, although digital equivalents are far more common now.

Sometimes the flaps are large and display whole words, and in other installations there are several smaller flaps, each displaying a single character. The former method is limited to the words it can display on the flaps, while the latter system is not, and output messages can be changed without the need for the addition or replacement of flaps, although images cannot. In the example image on the right, the destinations in the centre of the picture are split into characters, while the messages left and right of these occupy one flap each.

During a power loss or disruption the display will freeze. At first this may be an advantage because the information is still correct. When the information becomes outdated it might be worse than no information.

Flip-dot displays and LED display boards may be used instead of split-flap displays in most applications. Their output can be varied more easily (by reprogramming instead of replacement of physical parts in the case of graphics) but they suffer from lower readability. They also can refresh more quickly, as a split-flap display often must cycle through many states.

Advantages to these displays include:

  • high visibility and wide viewing angle in most lighting conditions
  • little or no power consumption while the display remains static
  • Distinct metallic flapping sound draws attention when the information is updated.

In the case of the latter the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has specifically designed the new LED replacements for its aging Solari boards at North Station and South Station to emit an electronically generated flapping noise to cue passengers to train boarding updates.[1]

Many game shows of the 1970s used this type of display for the contestant podium scoreboards. Usually, the flip was left-to-right on a vertical axis, although up/down on a horizontal axis was not completely unknown. Early seasons of the game show Family Feud used a split flap display as part of the game board (subsequent seasons used more modern digital displays, and eventually simply used a large digital flat screen monitor). The game board on the Nickelodeon game show Make the Grade was a 7x7 split-flap display, used to display subjects and wild cards, as well as tracking contestants' progress. The television game show Chain Reaction on GSN features computer-simulated split-flap displays to display the various words in a chain.[citation needed]

In Italy, split-flap displays have also been occasionally used as destination signs for transit vehicles, there was also a brief vogue for them in the United Kingdom in the mid 1980s.[2]

Operational boards in transport terminals[edit]

The boards are currently in use at the following stations:

Australia[edit]

Czech Republic[edit]

France[edit]

Germany[edit]

Frankfurt am Main, gate A check-in area.
  • Frankfurt Airport (Flughafen Frankfurt am Main, IATA Code FRA) has Solari boards throughout the airport, still in use as of March 2012. Each row ends with a pair of green and red lights which flash to indicate that flight is boarding. They indicate each flight's destination, its flight number and carrier, and its departure gate and time.

India[edit]

Italy[edit]

Philippines[edit]

Romania[edit]

  • Otopeni Airport (Bucharest Henri Coandă International Airport) has Solari boards in the international departure area, including a pair of red lights on each row which flash to indicate an important message such as "now boarding".

Serbia[edit]

  • Belgrade Airport (Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, IATA Code BEG) has Solari boards on both levels of the departure area, still in use as of June 2013. Each row ends with a pair of red lights which flash to indicate that the flight is boarding or there is some other change in status. They indicate which destination a flight is to, its flight number and carrier, and its departure gate and time.

Singapore[edit]

Sri Lanka[edit]

Switzerland[edit]

  • All major railway stations in Switzerland still have split-flap displays in operation. While displays on platforms are gradually replaced by Liquid-crystal displays, the big general departure boards in the concourses of major stations remain split-flap due to better readability in comparison with digital displays. In recent years, some stations even got newly equipped with split-flap displays or received a new model replacing a dated one.

United States[edit]

Boards no longer in operation[edit]

Solari Board at London Liverpool Street (now removed).

Stations previously equipped with these boards included, amongst others:

United Kingdom[edit]

  • London Charing Cross, split into two sections with promotional images on destination blinds and up to two calling points per blind, operator shown below calling points, however as of 18 July 2007 these have now been dismantled and taken away replaced by the new LED boards like those used at Waterloo and Victoria.
  • London Liverpool Street, taken out of service September 2007. A live webcam used to broadcast frequently updated images of this board, but is now replaced by a cessation announcement.[5] The board, pictured, was blue coloured, with one destination per blind, operator above calling points, and could show a range of special messages, including "Boat Train", "Special Service", "International", "Stansted Express" and "This train has been replaced by a substitute road service".
  • London Victoria, replaced November 2004
  • London King's Cross, replaced in the early 2000s
  • Edinburgh Waverley, replaced by an LED departure board
  • Glasgow Queen Street
  • Birmingham New Street, replaced by LCD screens. The large clock from the board survived above the gateline, with the remaining panels replaced by advertising until the opening of the station extension in 2012.
  • Brighton railway station, replaced by an LED display. A substantial part of the board has been preserved by the Network SouthEast Railway Society.[6]
  • Reading railway station
  • London Waterloo, replaced by LCD units in the early 2000s, still there out of use until December 2006, when it was taken down to make way for an LED departure board that became operational in March 2007.
  • London Paddington,was situated across the platforms and used to carry advertisements on the back, facing arriving passengers.
  • Watford Junction, black coloured, full flip columns for Silverlink County services to Northampton, Southern services to Gatwick Airport, and Virgin Trains and First ScotRail services to North Wales, the North-West and Midlands of England and various destinations in Scotland. However, for Silverlink Metro services to London Euston and Silverlink County services to St Albans Abbey the calling points are fixed and only the time of the next train is changeable, due to all trains calling at the same stations.

United States[edit]

  • New York City's Grand Central Terminal, replaced by LCD units made by Solari di Udine during reconstruction of the terminal. It was one of the most famous of the Solari departure boards in the world.
  • New York City's Penn Station also featured these boards in both the Amtrak portion and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) portion. The board in the Amtrak portion, which showed departure information, was replaced in 2000 by an LCD board. The boards in the LIRR portion featured departing trains as well as boards at the head of each stairway to platforms for tracks 13 through 21, which displayed the stops and connections associated with the posted train. These were replaced over a period of several weeks between February and April 2006. The new signs, also made by Solari di Udine, use a combination of LCD and LED technology.
  • New York's Museum of Modern Art has a Solari flap display board in its permanent collection, on display in the design wing. The board itself works, and displays the original flight departure data for museum visitors (though reset to EST). The board was originally used in Milan's Malpensa Airport.[7]
  • New Carrollton Amtrak Station. (Removed in January 2010.)
  • Baltimore Penn Station. (replaced by LED board January 2010)[8]
  • Dulles International Airport had a split-flap display from airport opening in 1962 until circa 1991, when the main terminal was expanded.

Spain[edit]

The Netherlands[edit]

  • Amsterdam Centraal
  • Den Haag Centraal
  • Utrecht Centraal
  • Rotterdam Centraal
  • Maastricht

Cyprus[edit]

  • Larnaca International Airport's old terminal contains these boards at both arrivals and departure gates. These boards remain in situ after the closure of the terminal in 2009.

Non-informational uses[edit]

The aesthetic appeal of the displays are such that they have also seen use in purely artistic forms, such as in Pedestrian Drama, contemporary artwork using this display technology, and art by Juan Fontanive, who has used the mechanism extensively since 2005.

Patents[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mac Daniel (2006-04-06). "Nostalgia for noise at South Station - The Boston Globe". Boston.com. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  2. ^ "Eastern National Olympian Coach". 
  3. ^ enerel on November 29, 2008 (2008-11-29). "Photo of Brno - Hlavní nádraží". Panoramio. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 
  4. ^ http://www.beloblog.com/ProJo_Blogs/newsblog/archives/amtrak.jpg[dead link]
  5. ^ http://www.vicinitee.com/liverpoolstreetlive/index.cfm[dead link]
  6. ^ Network SouthEast Railway Society. "BRIGHTON 'SOLARI' TRAIN INDICATOR BOARD SAVED BY NSERS". Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  7. ^ Smith, Robert A. "MoMA's New Home, for Better and Worse". New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Michael Dresser (2010-03-22). "Amtrak | At Penn Station, the sign no longer goes clackety-clack". baltimoresun.com. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-04-30. 

External links[edit]