Among the United States companies that manufacture scoreboards are All American Scoreboards, Daktronics, OES Scoreboards, Fair Play Scoreboards, Nevco, S'portable Scoreboards, Varsity Scoreboards, Spectrum, Santech, Scoretronics, Naden and Electro-Mech.
Prior to the 1980s most electronic scoreboards were electro-mechanical. They contained relays or stepping switches controlling digits consisting of incandescent light bulbs. Beginning in the 1980s, advances in solid state electronics permitted major improvements in scoreboard technology. High power semiconductors such as thyristors and transistors replaced mechanical relays, light-emitting diodes first replaced light bulbs for indoor scoreboards and then, as their brightness increased, outdoor scoreboards. Light-emitting diodes last many times as long as light bulbs, are not subject to breakage, and are much more efficient at converting electrical energy to light. The newest light emitting diodes can last up to 100,000 hours before having to be replaced. Advances in large scale integrated circuits permitted the introduction of computer control. This also made it cost effective to send the signals that control the operation of the scoreboard either through the existing AC wires providing power to the scoreboard or through the air. Powerline modems permit the digital control signals to be sent over the AC power lines. The most common method of sending digital data over power lines at rates less than 2400 bits per second is called frequency shift keying (FSK). Two radio frequencies represent binary 0 and 1. Radio transmission such as FSK sends data digitally. Until recently radio transmission was subject to short range and interference by other radio sources. A fairly recent technology called spread spectrum permits much more robust radio control of scoreboards. Spread spectrum, like the name implies, distributes the signal over a wide portion of the radio spectrum. This helps the signal resist interference which is usually confined to a narrow frequency band.
In both the United States and Canadian football codes, the minimum details displayed are the time and score of both teams. A typical high school scoreboard will additionally display the down, the yardage of the line of scrimmage, the yards to go until a first down, the team with the possession (usually signified with the outline of a football in lights next to the possessing team's score) and the quarter. Higher levels will also include play clocks and the number of time outs left for each team. American football scoreboards may include a horn to signal the end of a quarter, but they are not used in larger venues.
A basketball scoreboard will at the minimum display the time left in the period and both team's scores. The last minute of each quarter is usually displayed with tenths of a second, which is required in FIBA, NBA (since 1989), and NCAA (since 2001). Most high school scoreboards also include a display of the number of team fouls, the number of the last player to commit a personal foul (with the total number of personal fouls for that player), the period, and indicators of which team is in the team foul penalty situation (not used in FIBA play), and possession (with a separate possession arrow display at half-court). College basketball scoreboards include shot clocks and the number of time outs left for each team. Larger scoreboards include statistics on the players in the game. Basketball scoreboards must include a horn or buzzer to signal the end of a period, fouls, and substitutions.
In some multipurpose venues where ice hockey and basketball are played, the scoreboard unit which shows penalties will be used to display the player on the court, number of fouls, and points scored in the game. The team fouls are usually placed in the same position as shots on goal in hockey games.
Since 1991, the NBA has mandated that each shot clock carry a duplicate readout of the time left in the period in addition to the shot time. Many college and even some high-school shot clocks (in states where a shot-clock rule is in effect for high-school basketball) now also include a game timer.
After various arenas, from fan requests, installed three-sided game shot clocks, the NBA instituted a new game shot clock rule in 2002, requiring specific visibility of the game and shot clock time for replay purposes. FIBA installed a similar three-sided rule in 2004. The rule was further changed in 2005 by a new Daktronics see-through model (one on top of the basket, one on the end of the basket unit); that model is now used in FedExForum (where the unit was tested in 2004-05), Wachovia Center and the Time Warner Cable Arena (both installed in 2005), the TD Banknorth Garden and Philips Arena (both installed for the 2006-07 season).
Daktronics recently introduced a technology called ColorSmart. This technology changes the LED color based on the game information. For example when a team is winning the score is in green and when the team is losing the score is in red. Unfortunately though this feature isn't permitted in FIBA, NBA, NCAA, or High School basketball because the clock must be kept the same color without change. This rule was introduced in 1994 when Spectrum Scoreboards created a similar concept.
For baseball the scoreboard will at the minimum show both team scores, as well as the current inning. In addition the number of balls, strikes and outs is represented by digits or individual lights. Larger scoreboards offer an inning-by-inning breakdown of the scores, hits, errors, and the time of day. There may also be another display either separate or combined with the scoreboard listing the radar gun reading of the last pitch thrown in miles per hour. Almost all Major League facilities have a video board as a scoreboard or a matrix display. Usually these scoreboards are controlled via programs that keep statistics and not just the score. Usually the official scorer will operate this program. Then all the information the official scorer will enter will automatically be outputted to the scoreboard. Currently, the largest scoreboards are located at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, and Kansas City, Missouri's Kauffman Stadium.
Manually-operated scoreboards are still found frequently in baseball, particularly at older venues. Well-known examples of manual scoreboards, using numbers painted on metal sheets hung by people working inside the scoreboard, include Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
In some stadiums since 2005, LED boards which are the full height of the outfield wall have been installed to either replace a manual scoreboard or enhance an existing wall, are considered in play, and are durably constructed to withstand the impacts of fielders colliding with the wall, along with the impact of a baseball against the panel. Examples of this type of scoreboard display are seen in Milwaukee's Miller Park, Rogers Centre in Toronto, and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. In all three cases, the walls display the current game state of out-of-town games (often down to pitch count for the current at-bat and runners on base), statistics for the current batter or pitcher, and promotional messages.
In multipurpose arenas, the penalties being served will appear in the multi-purpose panels, used for player statistics in basketball, with shots on goal in the same position as team fouls for basketball.
Some amateur and youth levels will have the clock count down.
Some American venues will use a multi-purpose gridiron/soccer venue type scoreboard where various statistics are shown. Such may include either total fouls, corner kicks, shots on goal, or other important statistics for spectators to learn their team's overall performance.
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