The Evolution of Computer Monitors

Over six decades, devices have evolved significantly and are now capable of reproducing millions of colours. 

Anyone looking at computer monitors these days could hardly imagine what it would be like to live with them in the 60s and 70s when they started to appear. Simple and capable of reproducing only one colour, they were not even a shadow of what they would become.

In the 1950s, when TVs began to be successful in American homes, the information generated by computers was reproduced only on paper. Back then, a simple computer occupied an entire room and it all looked like something out of a science fiction book.

The beginning of an evolution in the 60s

The first computer monitors began to appear in the 1960s. They were capable of reproducing only one colour, green. For this reason, they became known as “green phosphorus monitors” and their sharpness was better than that of TVs. However, as no machine reproduced images – only texts were displayed – in practice, this was no problem.

It was like that until the 80s. Over 20 years, only one colour was displayed on the screens, even in versions built by companies like IBM and Apple. With the machines decreasing in size, the monitors also became less heavy, but still limited to monochromatism.

80’s and the age of colours

Things only started to change in the 1980s. It was in 1981 that the CGA (Color Graphics Adapter) standard was released. It took advantage of the first colour graphics cards embedded in computers and allowed the reproduction of up to 4 colours and 16 tones. The reproduction of different shades was made through the intensity with which the colour was displayed on the screen.

The evolution in this segment started to accelerate in this period. In 1984, IBM announced the EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter) standard, which expanded the number of colours displayed to 64. This feature helped the company increase sales in the United States and established the company as synonymous with the personal computer.

As early as 1987, the company launched the VGA (Video Graphics Array) standard. It provided a leap in quality and new monitors were capable of displaying 256 colors, at resolutions up to 800 x 600 pixels.

The 90s and video cards

Much of the evolution in the quality of the images displayed today is due to video cards and models more similar to those we know today began to appear in the early 90’s. At the time, companies like NVIDIA and ATI (now AMD) started the popularization of liquid crystal, present in LCD screens.

Evolution of Computer Monitors

It was in the second half of the decade that manufacturers began to bet on thinner monitors: CRT monitors (heavy and huge) dropped out of the scene so that LCD screens (lighter and thinner) could gain space. New data transmission standards were created to support newly launched technologies – such as DVI (Digital Visual Interface) and HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface).

The evolution of liquid crystal and the future

In the last decade, the evolution of LCD screens and especially monitors has been quite significant. LED, OLED and AMOLED display won the market. The refresh rate (measured in Hz) decreased, as did the response time in generating the images.

Furthermore, the dimensions of the screens were reduced as well as the weight of these electronics. Energy consumption has been reduced and perfection in image formation has been achieved – without the flicker effect, responsible for making the eyes more tired.

Today, there are specific monitors for both gamers and design professionals. There are versions with different screen sizes, ranging from 17 to 37 inches. With regard to colour reproduction, the possibility currently exceeds the spectrum of 1 billion colours.

The 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) is about to be surpassed with the arrival of 8K screens (7680 x 4320 pixels) in the next two years. With high contrast ratios, brightness and brightness control systems and adaptive features of the screen to the environment, today’s monitors are nothing like what they were in the past.

This appears to be an area where evolution is far from having a limit. As we have already seen in movies and TV series, in the future we may have holographic monitors (tests with this technology are already at an advanced stage in laboratories of large companies).

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