SHCC WYSIWYG Article from March 2001

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This article appeared in the March 2001 WYSIWYG newsletter.

TVs and Video Monitors

by Don VanSyckel

A question came up about video resolution and using a TV instead of a computer monitor.  Here's a short writeup I thought others might find interesting.

When televisions were developed in the late 1940's and early 1950's, there were only electronic tubes.  There were no semiconductors (which are transistors), logic chips, memory chips, or microprocessors.  It was a challenge to get the audio and video signals from the transmitter to the individual television receivers.  The choice came down to either cheap transmitters and very expense receivers, or very expense transmitters and cheap receivers.  Obviously the cheap receiver choice was the way to go so the consumer could afford to buy them.  As part of this, TVs were developed with 525 lines of scanning.  By today's video standard, this is at the bottom of the resolution scale.  TVs look as good as they do when we watch them because the color selection is continuous, or infinite, and the changes across the line or screen are also continuous and not limited to a number of pixels.  Then the human eye integrates it all and the horizontal quality makes up for the vertical shortcoming.

The new and coming high resolution TVs will make using a TV for a monitor better than with today's TVs.  It's kind of amazing that TVs have remained unchanged in their basic screen format for 50 years.   I haven't seen much information on the new TV format yet so I can't comment on what to expect.

When you use a TV to display a computer display, it's difficult to go beyond the standard VGA setting of 640 X 480.  Today's video cards and monitors offer resolutions which go well beyond this basic resolution.   There are resolutions of:

800 x 600 (800 horizontally, 600 vertically)
848 x 480
1024 x 768
1152 x 864
1280 x 1024
1600 x 1200

What does it mean to use a higher resolution?  Things like icons, jpg pictures, and other graphics use a certain number of pixels horizontally and vertically to display themselves.  A picture which is 640 x 480 will take the entire screen if you are using 640 x 480 resolution, but will only take part of the screen if you are using one of the higher resolutions.   Many times I find it useful to have two or three windows open at a time.  This is much more usable when you use one of the higher resolutions.  I would recommend either 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 as good general purpose choices.   The down side of using a higher resolution is the size of the object gets smaller.

A good idea if you are getting a new monitor, is to get at least a 17", or whatever your budget and desk space can afford.  Remember that your monitor, as well as your video card, must support the resolution you choose.  Don't be afraid to experiment a little.

Video settings are done by 1) right click on the desktop, 2) select properties, 3) select settings tab, and 4) choose the video resolution.  If you try a setting and it isn't right for you, change it again.

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