Electronic Sign HistoryGoodyear's newest electronic sign technology dubbed Eaglevision, is carried on all three of the U.S.-based Goodyear Blimps. This enhanced sign is the latest in a long line of innovative technologies, which have enabled goodyear to display public service and Goodyear promotional messages on the side of its blimps for more than 70 years. Use the timeline above to see how this technology has progressed.
Neon-O-GramIn 1930, the Charleston was the dance rage, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby" was hitting the bookstores and the Goodyear Blimp Defender became the first airship in the world to carry a lighted sign.
Named Neon-O-Gram, ten removable aluminum framed panels were attached to the side of the defender, allowing a static text to be displayed using neon light tubes. Each frame weight 35 pounds and stood six feet tall and four feet wide.
Incandescent BulbsIn 1947, Goodyear replaced the neon tubes with 182 individual incandescent bulbs, which lit up the sky with the Goodyear logo and Wingfoot trademark. This type of static display remained on the Goodyear Blimps until 1966, when a semi-animated night-sign, named "Skytacular" was developed.
SkytacularFirst installed and used on the airship Mayflower, "Skytacular" was a colorful leap forward from 182 white bulbs to 1,540 lights per side in red, green, yellow and blue, and was the first Goodyear Blimp sign to add moving figures and text. To accomplish this, a punch tape was encoded with holes, and was then passed over a pool of mercury in a device called a mercury reader. An electronic contact was completed each time a hole passed over the mercury, which then turned on a specific light.
Super SkytacularIn 1969, "Skytacular" was upgraded by doubling the number of lights to 3,780 and renamed "Super Skytacular." Able to flash public service announcements in colorful text and animation, "Super Skytacular" became very popular with the public and valuable for promoting Goodyear products and services.
Super Skytacular 2In 1996, some of Goodyear's blimps were upgraded with a sign technology named "Super Skytacular 2."
Each side of "Super Skytacular 2" displays 3,780 light-emitting diode (LED) boards connected by 7.8 miles of wire. Each board is approximately 2.3 inches in size and comprised of 12 LEDs, each group consisting of three LEDs - red, green, and blue.
The intensity of each LED can be adjusted or "blended" to create a palette of 32,768 possible colors, from which 256 colors can be simultaneously displayed. Such high resolution allows the creation of "Skytacular" animation and graphics. As part of the 3,780 light boards, 1,036 are equipped with an additional 36 high-intensity red-orange LEDs producing enough light to make messages visible during the day.
EaglevisionToday's Goodyear Blimp carries the next step in the evolution of this technology, Eaglevision. Maintaining the same number but improved LED hardware, state-of-the-art computers and software, and a generous dose of Goodyear innovation have produced a high resolution night-sigh capable of super brilliant text, smooth animation and, for the first time, real video!
In 2000, Goodyear's first blimp to be christened in the new century, Spirit of Goodyear, based near Akron, Ohio, was fitted and now displays Eaglevision.
Programming messages for the sign is easy. Text is typed directly into a computer file, which sends the information to the lights. Larger-than-life photos and graphics can be scanned onto the side of the blimp in a matter of minutes. Animation and video is a bit more of a challenge. Animation is constructed from stills in a step by step sequence, while video is recorded and translated by software into a format the night-sign boards can transmit.
Look to the sky!
At times, more than 50 percent of the messages flashed on the night-signs of the Goodyear Airships are devoted to public service. The remainder is used for Goodyear marketing and dealer support promotions. A spinning Goodyear logo, a United Way emblem, a speeding race car, and dazzling fireworks are all part of the Goodyear night-sign animation library, which expands its catalog each year.
Over the years, Goodyear has utilized its blimps in a number of unique ways to reach the public. Beginning in 1940, it wasn't unusual for a blimp to tow a banner or talk!
Equipped with a record player, microphone and attached loudspeaker, the Goodyear blimps Reliance and Ranger would Blimpcast recordings and live greetings to the public below, while banner-towing airships would occasionally advertise commercial offerings such as soft drinks.
These ventures into unconventional advertising were eventually discarded, leaving the lighted sign as the preferred format.
Light Sign - Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
On the left side of the blimp are 3,780 boards such as the one to the left holding a total of 82,656 LEDs. Of these boards, 1,036 are configured to be seen from the ground during the day.
LEDs are clear when not powered. When a current is applied, the outer LEDs grow red while the inner three produce red, green or blue. Each glow in varying degrees of intensity, in response to computer controlled power levels to produce a palette of 32,767 possible colors.