21 November 2011

Death Comes Calling

Like everything else in the universe my monitor died. It came with the computer in April 2003. Like its predecessor it lasted eight years (surprisingly). It wasn't the best monitor in the world. Lights reflected in it a strange pink colour, the glass was the most delicate thing in the world and the act of breathing on it caused smudges to appear that had to be cleaned almost daily, it was too big to fit with my cabinets so they had to be taken down, and it weighed about 60 pounds. Unlike the previous one, an IBM which just refused to turn on one day, this one, an HP model, turned on with half the screen completely black and the other half doing the Hula. At least it had the decency to tell me it was dying.

Relying on a stopgap replacement for the time being I checked the net to discover, to my horror, that nearly all manufacturers have stopped production of CRT monitors in favour of shitty LCDs. The problems with LCDs are legion: the viewing angle is practically non-existant, each pixel has to be viewed at 0 degrees (normal to the pixel), so to avoid distortion you either have to constantly move your head around or sit 20 feet back (because of the way the human eye works 20 feet is practically the same as infinity), at which point I won't see anything and will have to knock a few walls down; most LCD monitors use twisted nematic displays because they're cheap, but TN monitors can't produce anything resembling colours accurately, which is essential for someone working with graphics. There's so much crap wrong with them here's a link for more information.

Having worked with LCD monitors before and getting very bad headaches and eye strain from looking at them I can say that avoiding one at all costs is par for the course of looking for a replacement. An interesting question arises: if LCD monitors are so horrible how did they come to dominate the market? The answer is simple, and comes in two parts:

1. They're smaller! Now marketing geniuses realise that the average consumer can't find his bunghole with both hands. A little trick, like calling a war "kinetic military action", can sway a lot of idiots for something that they would normally despise. The people who make computer monitors decided to rely on the fact that LCDs are a lot lighter than CRTs so consumers are willing to give up a product that is superior in every way for some POS because they won't get a hernia having to perform heavy lifting. LCDs are also thinner so you can put a lot more clutter on your work station and pay attention to it instead of doing your job.

2. They're cheaper to manufacture. CRTs require technology and components and things to manufacture. There's an X-ray gun, and leaded glass, and a high vacuum, and lots of other stuff. LCDs are just plastic and wires. Also, since the image "quality" is so shitty on LCDs the company can save a lot of money by making loads of them and phasing out their more expensive, high quality CRT monitors.

If LCDs are the problem, what's the solution? Well, it's not impossible to find CRTs floating around, probably in the "Beyond" section of Bed, Bath, & Beyond, or The Twilight Zone, or the Internet, although in eight more years when that one breaks I'll have to get some POS LCD, right? Well, that article linked above (and again here) talks about in-plane switching (IPS) LCD monitors that are much more expensive and much rarer but aren't all bad. Then there's the OLED or "organic" light-emitting diode, which, according to the other wiki, can procuce comparable image quality to CRTs for about $3000 a unit! I'll keep you informed on this unfolding saga. Next time see pictures of the deceased.

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