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A backlight is a form of illumination used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs). As LCDs do not produce light themselves (unlike for example Cathode ray tube (CRT) displays), they need illumination (ambient light or a special light source) to produce a visible image. Backlights illuminate the LCD from the side or back of the display panel, unlike frontlights, which are placed in front of the LCD. Backlights are used in small displays to increase readability in low light conditions such as in wristwatches, and in computer displays and LCD televisions to produce light in a manner similar to a CRT display. A review of some early backlighting schemes for LCDs is given in a report by Peter J. Wild IEEE First-Hand History under its section Backlit LCDs.

Simple types of LCD displays are built without an internal light source, requiring external light sources to convey the display image to the user. Modern LCD screens, however, are built with an internal light source. Such LCD screens consist of several layers. The backlight is usually the first layer from the back. But in order to create screen images, a mechanism is needed to regulate the light intensity of the screen's pixels. For this, light valves are used that vary the amount of light reaching the target by blocking its passage in some way. The most common element is a polarizing filter to polarize the light from the source in one of two transverse directions and then passing it through a switching polarizing filter, to block the path of undesirable light.

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