From cell phones to television sets, “curved” is the new flat. At least that’s the big buzzword that’s trending in the upper echelons of the electronics industry and amongst the consumer world’s earliest adopters. While this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas served as a showcase for what a curved future could look like, the origins of the newly-emerging technology actually date back four decades.

It all began back in 1974, when Xerox PARC researcher Nicholas K. Sheridon answered the call for a more flexible display device with Gyricon, the world’s first electronic paper display. Perhaps most simply described as an electronic Etch A Sketch, Sheridon envisioned the product as a key step toward the introduction of a “paperless” office. (Talk about forward-thinking!)

Though it would take a few decades for Sheridon’s paperless vision to catch on, his 40-year-old technology remains at the heart of today’s curve-loving trend. Why curved? Well, a couple of reasons.

If you’ve ever seen an IMAX movie, you’ve probably noticed that a slightly bowed screen is usually part of the setup. In the cinematic world, this helps the screen to better surround the audience, ensuring that every seat in the house offers an optimal viewing experience. Though projection isn’t an issue when it comes to consumer products like smartphones, tablet devices, and televisions, the general effect of how a curved display device improves the viewing experience is the same. Most notably, it maximizes visibility by correcting any image distortions (particularly with big-screen displays), cutting down on reflections, and even improving sound quality.

At the forefront of the most recent curved technology charge are Samsung and LG.

Samsung made their interest in pursuing flexible technologies known back in 2010, when they announced that they were actively developing an AMOLED (a.k.a. active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display for mobile devices. Though they introduced the prototype at the 2011 CES, it wasn’t until Oct. 10, 2013 that the company’s vision became a consumer reality, with the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy Round—the world’s first curved smartphone—in South Korea.

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