Video of the main departure board Praha-Smíchov station, Czech Republic (2012). This Signaltron was manufactured by Pragotron
Schematic of a split-flap display in a digital clock display
Schematic of a split-flap display in a digital clock display
An animation of how a split-flap display works
An animation of how a split-flap display works
Flap departure board at Gare du Nord, Paris (2007)
Flap departure board at Gare du Nord, Paris (2007)
Section of a split-flap display board at Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof (2005)
Section of a split-flap display board at Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof (2005)
Enlarged inner workings of a split-flap clock
Enlarged inner workings of a split-flap clock

A split-flap display, or sometimes simply a flap display, is a digital 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 Italian display manufacturer Solari di Udine, or in Central European countries they are called Pragotron after the Czech manufacturer.

Split-flap displays were once commonly used in consumer digital clocks known as flip clocks.

Description

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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 serve as flight information display system and typically display departure or arrival information.

Sometimes the flaps are large and display whole words, and in other installations there are several smaller flaps, each displaying a single character.

Flip-dot displays and LED display boards may be used instead of split-flap displays in most applications. Their output can be changed by reprogramming instead of replacement of physical parts 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:

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has 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 Game Show Network 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 and businesses

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (March 2018)

The boards are currently in use at the following stations:

Australia

Belgium

China

France

Germany

Frankfurt Airport, gate A check-in area (2009)
Frankfurt Airport, gate A check-in area (2009)

Greece

Hong Kong

Hungary

India

Italy

Poland

Pakistan

Romania

The central train station in Cluj-Napoca has Solari boards for departure and arrivals, including a pair of red lights on each row which flash to indicate "now arriving"/"now leaving". Each platform has its own Solari boards, each including an analog clock. The boards are well mentained and include "exotic" destinations for this station, such as Rome, Paris, Venice and other west-european destinations.

Serbia

Sri Lanka

Taiwan

A flap display in Taipei Railway Station, Taiwan (2010)
A flap display in Taipei Railway Station, Taiwan (2010)

United Kingdom

United States

Working split-flap display at Seattle's Starbucks Reserve (2018)
Working split-flap display at Seattle's Starbucks Reserve (2018)
Split-flap displays at Trenton Transit Center, Trenton, New Jersey (2009)
Split-flap displays at Trenton Transit Center, Trenton, New Jersey (2009)

Boards no longer in operation

Stations etc. previously equipped with these boards included, amongst others:

Australia

Canada

Cyprus

France

Hong Kong

India

Japan

North Macedonia

The Netherlands

Since the 1980s, all railway stations in The Netherlands except those with very low passenger numbers had spit-flap displays on all platforms providing detailed information about the upcoming train. The larger railway stations also featured displays in this style near staircases and entrances, and the busiest stations had large overview displays in the main hall, e.g. at Amsterdam Centraal, Utrecht Centraal and Rotterdam Centraal. Between 2010 and 2012, they were all taken out of service. Most spit-flap indicators have been replaced by LCD displays, in some cases LED was used where direct sunlight would impact the readability too much.

Philippines

Poland

Romania

Singapore

Spain

Switzerland

Thailand

In Bangkok, Don Muang International Airport’s Terminal 1 had three split-flap displays installed — two on a departures level, and only one on arrivals — all of which had been used until airport’s closure in 2006.

United Kingdom

Solari Board at London Liverpool Street in 2003. This board has since been removed.
Solari Board at London Liverpool Street in 2003. This board has since been removed.

United States

Solari board at Amtrak's 30th Street Station in Philadelphia in December 2018. The board was removed the following month and is now on static display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.
Solari board at Amtrak's 30th Street Station in Philadelphia in December 2018. The board was removed the following month and is now on static display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.

Non-informational uses

The aesthetic appeal of the displays is 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.

The album cover for The Enemy's album We'll Live and Die in These Towns is based on the Solari design seen at British railway stations.

Patents

Gallery

References

  1. ^ Mac Daniel (2006-04-06). "Nostalgia for noise at South Station". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  2. ^ "Eastern National Olympian Coach".
  3. ^ "WWII Museum Protects Legacy of Those Who Served". 2016-02-12. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  4. ^ Soar, Matt. "Solari Displays and Flight YMX". Solari Displays and Flight YMX. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  5. ^ http://www.sbb.ch/en/group/the-company/projects/upgrading-the-rail-network/national-projects/modernisierung-generalanzeiger.html[dead link]
  6. ^ "Liverpool Street Live - Web Cams, Special Announcement - Cessation of Web Cam Service". Archived from the original on September 14, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2017.
  7. ^ Network SouthEast Railway Society. "Brighton 'Solari' Train Indicator Board Saved by NSERS". Archived from the original on 2013-11-04. Retrieved 2013-11-04.
  8. ^ Michael Dresser (2010-03-22). "At Penn Station, the sign no longer goes clackety-clack". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  9. ^ Smith, Robert A. "MoMA's New Home, for Better and Worse". New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  10. ^ a b Saffron, Inga (December 11, 2018). "After talk with Philly congressman, Amtrak says it may keep flipboard at 30th Street Station". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  11. ^ "End of an era: Flipping board at 30th Street Station to be replaced in January". Philadelphia, PA: WPVI-TV. November 30, 2018. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  12. ^ "Philly Rallies to Save its Amtrak Station Flip Board". CityLab. 2018-12-13. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  13. ^ Hall, Gray (January 25, 2019). "Iconic 30th Street Station flip board heading to museum". Philadelphia, PA: WPVI-TV. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  14. ^ "Philadelphia's iconic 30th Street Station flip board removed". Philadelphia, PA: WPVI-TV. January 26, 2019. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  15. ^ "New digital Amtrak sign in operation at 30th Street Station". Philadelphia, PA: WPVI-TV. February 28, 2019. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  16. ^ Rush, Mariah (July 30, 2019). "30th Street Station's old Amtrak Solari board now on display at Railroad Museum". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  17. ^ Anderson, Patrick. "SIGN OF THE TIMES: Old-fashioned departure board will be replaced at Providence Amtrak station". Providence Journal. Retrieved 31 May 2022.