Distinguished Alumni Awards

Donald L. Bitzer

Donald L. Bitzer
To Donald L. Bitzer for his contribution to the invention of the flat-panel plasma display, the forerunner of today￿s high-definition flat-panel television monitors.

Distinguished University Research Professor, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

  • B.S. 1955, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • M.S. 1956, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ph.D. 1960, Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 Professor Bitzer pioneered computer-assisted education and made the PLATO system known worldwide. By 1980 there were 7,000 hours of instructional material in more than 150 subject areas on the PLATO IV system. Several thousand terminals were located around the globe, including Australia, Belgium, France, Israel, Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Canada, and South Africa. Bitzer realized early in PLATO’s development that a display with memory was needed to make the system successful. He and his colleagues subsequently devised an electronic display in which each pixel on the screen glowed like a little neon sign. The plasma panel was both a display and a storage device. The plasma monitor accepted digital information directly from the computer and stored it on the panel, solving the scalability problem that plagued the use of cathode ray tubes in computer display monitors. This invention of Professor Bitzer (along with ECE alumni H. Gene Slottow and Robert Willson) has enabled the development of large-screen flat-panel televisions of modern TV and DVD technologies. The additional invention of the plasma display panel and its current impact on TV and DVD technologies earned Professor Bitzer an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

For many years, Professor Bitzer was one of the most distinguished faculty members in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UIUC. He has received numerous awards, including election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1974, an honorary Ph.D. from MacMurray College in 1985, and recently the 2002 Scientific and Technological Emmy.

Currents as of 2004.