One of my major duties is helping resolve obsolescence issues that continue to crop up when supporting Navy ships that are 20-50 years old.
One area that continues to be an issue and is getting harder to support is the multitude of displays and monitors. The vast majority of monitors onboard ships are Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs), most recognizable to everyone as old technology television and computer monitors.
The problem is two fold. First, the CRT industry base is virtually nonexistent today, replaced by LCD TV, Plasma displays and other technologies. Second, virtually every company that designed a system onboard a ship has created their own interface and mounting configuration so that their display is unique to their equipment. Sometimes it may make sense, other times it may not. There are many hundreds of unique CRT configurations.
When the CRTs are no longer repairable, they must be replaced. With no commercial CRT industry left, the only option is to redesign a replacement that needs to go through rigorous testing for safety and reliability. The cost to redesign can be in excess of $100K, and this is for a piece of equipment that costs less than $3K.
I believe that in most instances, companies can create a universal interface and mounting system that would mitigate obsolescence issues by using common commercial mounting dimensions and interfaces. To put it simply, the TV in our homes had changed significantly over the last 50 years, yet we can easily replace that old system without incurring tens of thousands of dollars in changes to our homes.
My recommendation requires creating an In Service Engineering Activity (ISEA). The ISEA would create the technical specifications that all new systems would need to conform to. I see these specifications requiring a universal mounting and standardized connection so that when the current display is obsolete, a similar sized unit will only need limited engineering review to get approved as a replacement.