The 'Bright Display' Radar System


This 1977 photograph, probably taken in Sydney, shows the 'bright display' radar system. This display system gave good service in a variety of locations from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s - although it was well and truly obsolete when finally withdrawn from service.

The bright display system presented raw radar returns overlaid by a video map showing airspace, routes and other important features. There was no labelling of returns, however SSR returns were displayed with a geometric symbol (e.g. rectangle, triangle) depending on the code being squawked. Target identification was done mostly by distance reports or observing a directed turn. Ident was maintained using 'shrimp boats' - pieces of perspex with the target's callsign written on them in chinagraph pencil, moistened and stuck on the screen by surface tension. The shrimp boats had to be manually moved along as the target moved. Two shrimp boats can be seen on the display in this photograph, as can a number of the 'slash' marks indicating a primary radar return.

The unknown controller is wearing a 'Minilite' headset, which was standard issue from the 1970s through to the early 1990s. On the console desktop is an 'Ericofon' handset, ubiquitous throughout ATC facilities between the 1970s and 90s.


A typical ‘Bright Display’ radar console, this one photographed in the Central Training College’s simulator. The joystick on the left hand side controlled the position of an Inter-Console Marker (ICM) with which one controller could relay identification of a target (radar return) to another controller.

Click here to see a Bright Display radar console on display in the Airways Museum

(Photos: CAHS collection)

Click here to see a wide shot inside Melbourne Area Approach Control Centre

Click here to see a photo of the radar head

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