Friday, August 21, 2009

Monochrome Monitors

Whilst I'm not sure I've seen any scientific evidence that monochrome monitors, like amber or green, help with eye strain versus a modern colour monitor, they did tend to be sharper than the same generation/similar cost versions of CRT colour monitors. Today's colour LCD monitors are pretty good for sharpness, of course, so it's less of an issue. And people do love colour - take syntax highlighting in text editors for code.

However, I think there is something special and 'cool' about those old monochrome displays. And I'm sure that's recognised today in a certain class of application. Take for instance the MacOSX Terminal application that has several colour sets built-in, including a pretty class green terminal one, and it allows you to set your own colours. In fact, nearly all command line interfaces, serial and Telnet terminal applications allow you to set colours - and apart from a very few specific instances, these are monochrome applications.

I'm currently making a couple of command line applications and my current command window? Full screen, black background and wonderful amber text. Ahh, bask in that orange glow. More productive? I think so, even if the effect is due to some happiness factor.

And if the happiness fades? Well, there's always green text...


Blogger Tony said...

How does it make you more productive if it induces you to write nonsense on your blog? :-)

Seriously though, there is a good reason why monochrome CRTs were sharper than colour ones; they could have a single coat of phosphor, rather than dots, and so they didn't have a native resolution, it was down to how well they were driven. Today you see a similar effect in screens, where the monochrome screens on book readers like the Kindle are much sharper than colour LCDs, because each pixel is one pixel, instead of 2 greens, a red and a blue.

But you knew all that, didn't you?

And why are terminal apps all monochrome and dressed up to look like vt100s? It is because they're all written by nostalgic old hackers like you :-)

11:32 am  
Blogger RobZed said...

AFAIK, they have three pixels for an LCD monitor. See the wikipedia article. 4-colour patterns are usually used for cameras.

I'm not sure that the monochrome LCD screen is much sharper than a colour one - for the same dot pitch - can you give me a web reference? I admit there is a slight colouring at the edges of pixels - but sharper?

My terminal app displays colours just fine. Makes Nethack easier to play IMHO. But you can enable colour 'ls', etc. And there is a colourizer for things like svn, etc.

8:39 pm  
Blogger Tony said...

Re: sharper. I think 'for the same dot pitch' is key here, because a monochrome LCD can have a finer dot pitch than a colour one, because it only needs one real pixel per logical pixel.

So maybe I am confusing resolution with sharpness. Or I could just be wrong :-)

And it appears that the monochrome book readers have a relatively low resolution of 600x800. I guess this is a trade off with the low power requirements of their screens.

9:42 am  

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