The Emerging Monitor

It’s been nearly 35 years since I got my first home computer – called a microcomputer back in the day. And for the first few years I didn’t have a dedicated monitor. Both my VIC-20 and Commodore 64 just hooked up to an old color TV I had kicking around. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that I got my first 16 bit machine – an Amiga 500 – and started my dalliance with computer monitors that continues to this day.

One tends to forget how truly primitive computer graphics was in the late 1980s. Most PCs displayed text only on a monochrome display. Macs were around then and had a graphical user interface – but any color display was prohibitively expensive. The 1084 monitor I got with my Amiga 500 featured a 14 inch 640X200 non interlaced color display that showed its rather blocky Workbench icons on its screen along with a mouse controlled cursor. There were a stimulating 16 possible available colors. And you could get up to 640X400 with interlacing – if you could take the flicker.

The whole machine had a total RAM of about 1 MB – about half the size of a typical digicam JPEG photo today. Instagram and YouTube were far in the future at that point.

Fast forward 7 years and we switched from Commodore to PC clones. Our first online machine – which my daughter later took away to university – had a 14 inch 640X480 VGA color monitor. Later on I had  15 inch 800X600 monitor, and by the turn of the 21st century a 17 inch 1024X768 monitor. All of these were CRT units – modifications of TV technology – and the 17 inch one was really heavy and took up a lot of desktop real estate. They were all in the 4:3 aspect ratio common in Standard Definition TVs of the day. Aside from the bulk and weight, CRT monitors were not as bad as one might think – color rendition was actually pretty good and accurate.

Just before I retired from Unilever the QC lab in Rexdale was getting new PCs and they featured the first “flat screen” LCD monitors I had encountered. They were 17 inch 1152X864 displays and were notably light and thin. Very nice but not in my price range yet.

In fact it was 2008 before I purchased my first LCD screen – an Acer 17 inch 1152X864 unit. It was still in the 4:3 format and had the old school analog (D-sub) connecting cable. So it was new but not so new.

A couple of years after that I got my first widescreen 22 inch 1680X1050 monitor. This one featured a DVI (digital) input and was pretty nice even though the 16:10 aspect ratio was rather weird and didn’t last long in the marketplace.

Finally the industry settled on the 16:9 aspect ratio similar to color HDTV and the full HD 1920X1080 resolution became ubiquitous for desktops. To me this is the sweet spot in desktop monitors to this day. Oh sure you can get ultrawide monitors up to 38 inches in size and 4K resolution but you need a very powerful graphics card to make it work. Oh yes and the connections are now HDMI for the most part. Some folks use 2-3 screens if their video card will take them.

A 24 inch monitor in 1920X1080 resolution is what I’m using now. I find that one 24 inch monitor is just fine.

I have two models on my two main machines today – an LG IPS unit and a BenQ VA monitor. Both screens give wide view angles, excellent color and the VA model has darker darks and whiter whites on screen. The older PC I use in the storage room to play music has a 24 inch monitor as well but it is older and the colors aren’t as vibrant.

Well like everything else in tech. the monitor or display screen has evolved a lot from that early Commodore 1084. In addition to getting larger and wider with with more pixels, the displays have also shrunk down to laptop, tablet and smartphone size. Plus they are responsive now; you can tap and swipe on them to your hearts content. But at the end of the day it’s still what you see that counts.




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