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An analogue gray scale effect in bistable twisted nematic displays is presented. The disappearance of twist during the Frederiks transition is sufficiently inhomogeneous to allow the formation of a variable ratio of twisted and untwisted domains by applying a short variable pulse. Thermal fluctuations in the director profile lead to lateral alterations of the unwinding voltage through the cell. The effect offers high contrast, good viewing angle characteristics, and short address times. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.