This is nothing to do with libertarianism, or only a bit. More, railing against How The World Is, that kind of thing.
My life has been in slow-motion-disaster mode for some time now, and that’s getting a bit tiresome, but a couple weeks ago the icing on the cake happened. My last CRT monitor stopped working; a gorgeous Compaq P1220 22″ monster. I was cooking dinner, decided to watch the second episode of Terra Nova, switched resolutions down to 1280×960 (my normal resolution is a whopping 1920×1440) and bang. Or rather, sort of, sizzle; the new resolution held for a couple of seconds, then started fizzing, then the screen went black.
So, I had a few minutes of, it’s just a glitch, something simple, maybe the cable, hoping against hope, but no, dead as a dodo. Nothing but a sadly blinking amber LED under the lifeless void.
So, this was my last one. I’d bought it as a backup, when my previous one, an equally huge Samsung 1100DF, was still working. The Samsung had died in May. half way through that shitty Doctor Who episode with the pirates; in that case the display suddenly shrank down to about an inch wide, and for a few seconds I thought it was some kind of special effect in the Doctor Who story. Nope.
There seems to be some kind of link here between watching TV shows and monitor failures. If I were a pressure group, I’d release a report saying that crap TV ruins monitors, and demand that the government Do Something About It.
So, these days, CRTs are old technology, and it’s virtually impossible to find anyone who will or can fix them. The Samsung service centre in Kettering want to charge me £45 just to look at it and say they can’t get the parts. The Compaq is in a local repair shop. The guy found the HOT transistor blown, replaced it, still doesn’t work, said he didn’t know what was wrong, so I found the service manual for him online and he said he’d have another go. But I suspect he’s following a strategy of just leaving it for a few days, then phoning back to say he still can’t fix it.
So I’m typing this on an ancient Taxan 15″, which was my last “backup” and came from my Mum’s PC. It’s tiny. It’s like 1998 all over again.
As you might have guessed, I like CRT monitors. I like them because they are better than LCD monitors. By the time they stopped making them, they had reached a pinnacle of picture technology at a very reasonable price and then BAM they fell off the market. Why? Why did we switch to the inferior in almost every respect LCD?
You see, it matters to me because I do serious graphics. I draw my comics on the computer. I don’t scan paper drawings, I do the drawings in photoshop. So screen real estate really matters, because the higher the resolution the more of the drawing I can see on screen. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the advantages of LCD.
They use less power.
Er, that’s it, as Private Eye would say.
Thinness is pretty pointless. My desk is a normal office desk with normal depth. It has ample room for a CRT at the right distance from my face on it. I haven’t seen anyone walking around sawing two feet off office desks, so it can’t be that that makes LCDs so popular. You can’t put it at the back of the desk because then it’s too far away. If you pull it forwards, what are you going to use the space behind it for? Pot plants? Statue of the aquabuddha? Cat basket? No, that’s no advantage, is it?
Lightness? I pick up a monitor twice; once to carry it in and put it on the desk, once to carry it out with funereal music playing. Yes, that’s about six minutes of my life carrying something heavy, but hardly compelling either is it?
Power consumption. Okay, I’ll buy that. It’s significant in an office building. Even in a home, it’s of some significance. But 140W for a biggie CRT still isn’t breaking the bank, it’s less than three of those shitty halogens you put fifteen of in your kitchen because you think it’s fashionable to patter around in spotlights while you’re chopping your veg.
So, that’s it. What’s worse about an LCD than a CRT? Everything else! The picture is inferior. The color gamut is much smaller. Many of them can’t even do 8 bit/channel colour and dither it down to a palette! The response time is slower (this is significant if you’re whizzing a tiny little “pencil” cursor round in Photoshop and the fucker keeps disappearing if you don’t go sloooooooooow). The colours all change if you move your head around, so you need a clamp on the headrest of your chair like you’re a spinal injury patient. The contrast ration is dismal. In the world of LCD, there is no black and white, only shades of grey. And it only looks good at the “native” resolution- CRTs can change resolutions, even if it blows them up all the time, haha, not so LCDs. Worst of all, the resolutions are painfully low. We have positively retrogressed.
Back in the CRT days, we all hungered for higher resolutions. We would say in the pub, “What are you driving Bob?” and Bob would say, “Sony at 1600×1200″ and then you take a smug sup of your pint and say, “Ah, I’ve got a Samsung at 1920×1440″ and Bob would look abashed. Not now. All the panels are this stupid widescreen format, like widescreen televisions, and without spending an arm and a leg your vertical resolution is 1080 pixels. That’s fucking pathetic. It’s the equivalent of a CRT at 1280×1024, which was de rigeur back in, er, 1998.
All the way back at Xerox PARC, the inventors of the GUI, they recognised that people read vertical documents. Books are vertical, comics are vertical. The Xerox Alto PC actually had a vertical screen! Sadly, that never caught on. Nonetheless, that vertical resolution is important. The lower it is, even just reading web pages, the more you have to scroll. And, from an artist’s perspective, most people are generally vertical, even in “adult” comics. So, if I get one of these shitty blurry “state of the art” LCDs, well, I can watch Doctor Who in widescreen, *small yay* but for work I’m literally pushed back over a decade.
I don’t understand why everyone swapped over to LCDs. It’s not as if they’re cheaper. In terms of quality-per-buck, they’re extortionate. I guess the simple answer is, they’re “good enough” for most mundane computer use in the same way that a Morris Minor is actually “good enough” for most mundane car journeys, just so long as you don’t mind the uncomfortable seats and the strange grinding noise when you change gear. You can check your GoogleMail by Twitter on your Facebook, or whatever it is twats do, on an LCD. But if you want decent colour rendering, or a gaming experience where panning doesn’t descend into a blurred mess, or to see more than a third of a PDF at once, you’re stuffed. I honestly wonder if people just think they’re cool because “flat screens” were one of those futuristic things in 1970, like food pills and jet packs and Space Stations, and in the absence of the others people are clinging to the one bit of the future that came true. Or, maybe people just wanted something you can tuck under your arm and run down the street with during a riot. I dunno.
Well, sigh. Nothing I can do. CRTs are getting harder and harder to source- at least, good ones whose screens aren’t very tired from years of use- and harder and harder to get repaired. It just makes me very sad that we’ve abandoned a better technology for a worse one, for no apparent reason. People like myself- who needed a good quality display on a budget- benefitted perhaps from the technology being driven to a point where it was far better than the masses needed. But we’ve gone from professional quality for 150 quid, to shit for more than 150 quid, which means I suspect that somebody is laughing all the way to the bank. It certainly isn’t me.
And at this point, I stop typing, and lean back, and am once again reminded that a more than a decade old Taxan monitor we bought for a song for our Mum has a better display than the State Of The Art. And a tear rolls down my cheek.