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Early electronic computers were fitted with a panel of light bulbs where the state of each

particular bulb would indicate the on/off state of a particular register bit inside the computer.
This allowed the engineers operating the computer to monitor the internal state of the machine,
so this panel of lights came to be known as the 'monitor'. As early monitors were only capable of
displaying a very limited amount of information, and were very transient, they were rarely
considered for program output. Instead, a line printer was the primary output device, while the
monitor was limited to keeping track of the program's operation.

As technology developed engineers realized that the output of a CRT display was more flexible
than a panel of light bulbs and eventually, by giving control of what was displayed to the
program itself, the monitor itself became a powerful output device in its own right.

Further information: Comparison of CRT, LCD, Plasma, and OLED and History of display

Multiple technologies have been used for computer monitors. Until the 21st century most used
cathode ray tubes but they have largely been superseded by LCD monitors.

Cathode ray tube

Main article: cathode ray tube

The first computer monitors used cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Prior to the advent of home
computers in the late 1970s, it was common for a video display terminal (VDT) using a CRT to
be physically integrated with a keyboard and other components of the system in a single large
chassis. The display was monochrome and far less sharp and detailed than on a modern flat-panel
monitor, necessitating the use of relatively large text and severely limiting the amount of
information that could be displayed at one time. High-resolution CRT displays were developed
for specialized military, industrial and scientific applications but they were far too costly for
general use.

Some of the earliest home computers (such as the TRS-80 and Commodore PET) were limited to
monochrome CRT displays, but color display capability was already a standard feature of the
pioneering Apple II, introduced in 1977, and the specialty of the more graphically sophisticated
Atari 800, introduced in 1979. Either computer could be connected to the antenna terminals of an
ordinary color TV set or used with a purpose-made CRT color monitor for optimum resolution
and color quality. Lagging several years behind, in 1981 IBM introduced the Color Graphics
Adapter, which could display four colors with a resolution of 320 x 200 pixels, or it could
produce 640 x 200 pixels with two colors. In 1984 IBM introduced the Enhanced Graphics
Adapter which was capable of producing 16 colors and had a resolution of 640 x 350.[1]

By the end of the 1980s color CRT monitors that could clearly display 1024 x 768 pixels were
widely available and increasingly affordable. During the following decade maximum display
resolutions gradually increased and prices continued to fall. CRT technology remained dominant
in the PC monitor market into the new millennium partly because it was cheaper to produce and
offered viewing angles close to 180 degrees.[2] CRTs still offer some image quality
advantages[clarification needed] over LCDs but improvements to the latter have made them much less
obvious. The dynamic range of early LCD panels was very poor, and although text and other
motionless graphics were sharper than on a CRT, an LCD characteristic known as pixel lag
caused moving graphics to appear noticeably smeared and blurry.

Liquid crystal display

Main articles: Liquid-crystal display and Thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display

There are multiple technologies that have been used to implement liquid crystal displays (LCD).
Throughout the 1990s, the primary use of LCD technology as computer monitors was in laptops
where the lower power consumption, lighter weight, and smaller physical size of LCD's justified
the higher price versus a CRT. Commonly, the same laptop would be offered with an assortment
of display options at increasing price points: (active or passive) monochrome, passive color, or
active matrix color (TFT). As volume and manufacturing capability have improved, the
monochrome and passive color technologies were dropped from most product lines.

TFT-LCD is a variant of LCD which is now the dominant technology used for computer

The first standalone LCDs appeared in the mid-1990s selling for high prices. As prices declined
over a period of years they became more popular, and by 1997 were competing with CRT
monitors. Among the first desktop LCD computer monitors was the Eizo L66 in the mid-1990s,
the Apple Studio Display in 1998, and the Apple Cinema Display in 1999. In 2003, TFT-LCDs
outsold CRTs for the first time, becoming the primary technology used for computer monitors.[2]
The main advantages of LCDs over CRT displays are that LCD's consume less power, take up
much less space, and are considerably lighter. The now common active matrix TFT-LCD
technology also has less flickering than CRTs, which reduces eye strain.[4] On the other hand,
CRT monitors have superior contrast, have superior response time, are able to use multiple
screen resolutions natively, and there is no discernible flicker if the refresh rate is set to a
sufficiently high value. LCD monitors have now very high temporal accuracy and can be used
for vision research.[5]

Organic light-emitting diode

Main article: Organic light-emitting diode

Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) monitors provide higher contrast and better viewing angles
than LCD's but they require more power when displaying documents with white or bright
backgrounds. In 2011, a 25-inch (64 cm) OLED monitor cost $7500, but the prices are expected
to drop.[6]

Measurements of performance
The performance of a monitor is measured by the following parameters:

Luminance is measured in candelas per square meter (cd/m2 also called a Nit).

Aspect ratio is the ratio of the horizontal length to the vertical length. Monitors usually
have the aspect ratio 4:3, 5:4, 16:10 or 16:9.

Viewable image size is usually measured diagonally, but the actual widths and heights are
more informative since they are not affected by the aspect ratio in the same way. For
CRTs, the viewable size is typically 1 in (25 mm) smaller than the tube itself.

Display resolution is the number of distinct pixels in each dimension that can be
displayed. For a given display size, maximum resolution is limited by dot pitch.

Dot pitch is the distance between sub-pixels of the same color in millimeters. In general,
the smaller the dot pitch, the sharper the picture will appear.

Refresh rate is the number of times in a second that a display is illuminated. Maximum
refresh rate is limited by response time.

Response time is the time a pixel in a monitor takes to go from active (white) to inactive
(black) and back to active (white) again, measured in milliseconds. Lower numbers mean
faster transitions and therefore fewer visible image artifacts.

Contrast ratio is the ratio of the luminosity of the brightest color (white) to that of the
darkest color (black) that the monitor is capable of producing.

Power consumption is measured in watts.

Delta-E: Color accuracy is measured in delta-E; the lower the delta-E, the more accurate
the color representation. A delta-E of below 1 is imperceptible to the human eye. Delta-Es
of 2 to 4 are considered good and require a sensitive eye to spot the difference.

Viewing angle is the maximum angle at which images on the monitor can be viewed,
without excessive degradation to the image. It is measured in degrees horizontally and


Main article: Display size

The area, height and width of displays with identical diagonal measurements vary dependent on
aspect ratio.

On two-dimensional display devices such as computer monitors the display size or view able
image size is the actual amount of screen space that is available to display a picture, video or
working space, without obstruction from the case or other aspects of the unit's design. The main
measurements for display devices are: width, height, total area and the diagonal.

The size of a display is usually by monitor manufacturers given by the diagonal, i.e. the distance
between two opposite screen corners. This method of measurement is inherited from the method
used for the first generation of CRT television, when picture tubes with circular faces were in
common use. Being circular, it was the external diameter of the glass envelope that described
their size. Since these circular tubes were used to display rectangular images, the diagonal
measurement of the rectangular image was smaller than the diameter of the tube's face (due to
the thickness of the glass). This method continued even when cathode ray tubes were
manufactured as rounded rectangles; it had the advantage of being a single number specifying
the size, and was not confusing when the aspect ratio was universally 4:3.

With the introduction of flat panel technology, the diagonal measurement became the actual
diagonal of the visible display. This meant that an eighteen-inch LCD had a larger visible area
than an eighteen-inch cathode ray tube.

The estimation of the monitor size by the distance between opposite corners does not take into
account the display aspect ratio, so that for example a 16:9 21-inch (53 cm) widescreen display
has less area, than a 21-inch (53 cm) 4:3 screen. The 4:3 screen has dimensions of 16.8 in
12.6 in (43 cm 32 cm) and area 211 sq in (1,360 cm2), while the widescreen is 18.3 in
10.3 in (46 cm 26 cm), 188 sq in (1,210 cm2).

Aspect ratio

Main article: Display aspect ratio

Until about 2003, most computer monitors had a 4:3 aspect ratio and some had 5:4. Between
2003 and 2006, monitors with 16:9 and mostly 16:10 (8:5) aspect ratios became commonly
available, first in laptops and later also in standalone monitors. Reasons for this transition was
productive uses for such monitors, i.e. besides widescreen computer game play and movie
viewing, are the word processor display of two standard letter pages side by side, as well as CAD
displays of large-size drawings and CAD application menus at the same time.[7][8] In 2008 16:10
became the most common sold aspect ratio for LCD monitors and the same year 16:10 was the
mainstream standard for laptops and notebook computers.[9]

In 2010 the computer industry started to move over from 16:10 to 16:9 because 16:9 was chosen
to be the standard high-definition television display size, and because they were cheaper to

In 2011 non-widescreen displays with 4:3 aspect ratios were only being manufactured in small
quantities. According to Samsung this was because the "Demand for the old 'Square monitors'
has decreased rapidly over the last couple of years," and "I predict that by the end of 2011,
production on all 4:3 or similar panels will be halted due to a lack of demand."[10]


Main article: Display resolution

The resolution for computer monitors has increased over time. From 320x200 during the early
1980s, to 800x600 during the late 1990s. Since 2009, the most commonly sold resolution for
computer monitors is 1920x1080.[11] Before 2013 top-end consumer products were limited to
2560x1600 at 30 in (76 cm), excluding Apple products.[12] Apple introduced 2880x1800 with
Retina MacBook Pro at 15.4 in (39 cm) on June 12, 2012, and introduced a 5120x2880 Retina
iMac at 27 in (69 cm) on October 16, 2014. By 2015 all major display manufacturers had
released 3840x2160 resolution displays.

Additional features
Power saving

Most modern monitors will switch to a power-saving mode if no video-input signal is received.
This allows modern operating systems to turn off a monitor after a specified period of inactivity.
This also extends the monitor's service life.

Some monitors will also switch themselves off after a time period on standby.

Most modern laptops provide a method of screen dimming after periods of inactivity or when the
battery is in use. This extends battery life and reduces wear.

Integrated accessories

Many monitors have other accessories (or connections for them) integrated. This places standard
ports within easy reach and eliminates the need for another separate hub, camera, microphone, or
set of speakers. These monitors have advanced microprocessors which contain codec
information, Windows Interface drivers and other small software which help in proper
functioning of these functions.

Glossy screen

Main article: Glossy display

Some displays, especially newer LCD monitors, replace the traditional anti-glare matte finish
with a glossy one. This increases color saturation and sharpness but reflections from lights and
windows are very visible. Anti-reflective coatings are sometimes applied to help reduce
reflections, although this only mitigates the effect.

Curved designs

In about 2009, NEC/Alienware together with Ostendo Technologies (based in Carlsbad, CA)
were offering a curved (concave) 43-inch (110 cm) monitor that allows better viewing angles
near the edges, covering 75% of peripheral vision. This monitor had 2880x900 resolution, LED
backlight and was marketed as suitable both for gaming and office work, while for $6499 it was
rather expensive.[13] While this particular monitor is no longer in production, most PC
manufacturers now offer some sort of curved desktop display.

Directional screen

Narrow viewing angle screens are used in some security conscious applications.


Main article: Stereo display

Newer monitors are able to display a different image for each eye, often with the help of special
glasses, giving the perception of depth.

Active shutter
Main article: Active shutter 3D system
Main article: Polarized 3D system
Main article: Autostereoscopy

A directional screen which generates 3D images without headgear.

Touch screen

Main article: Touchscreen

These monitors use touching of the screen as an input method. Items can be selected or moved
with a finger, and finger gestures may be used to convey commands. The screen will need
frequent cleaning due to image degradation from fingerprints.

Tablet screens

Main article: Graphics tablet/screen hybrid

A combination of a monitor with a graphics tablet. Such devices are typically unresponsive to
touch without the use of one or more special tools' pressure. Newer models however are now
able to detect touch from any pressure and often have the ability to detect tilt and rotation as

Touch and tablet screens are used on LCDs as a substitute for the light pen, which can only work
on CRTs.

Computer monitors are provided with a variety of methods for mounting them depending on the
application and environment.


A desktop monitor is typically provided with a stand from the manufacturer which lifts the
monitor up to a more ergonomic viewing height. The stand may be attached to the monitor using
a proprietary method or may use, or be adaptable to, a Video Electronics Standards Association,
VESA, standard mount. Using a VESA standard mount allows the monitor to be used with an
after-market stand once the original stand is removed. Stands may be fixed or offer a variety of
features such as height adjustment, horizontal swivel, and landscape or portrait screen

VESA mount

The Flat Display Mounting Interface (FDMI), also known as VESA Mounting Interface Standard
(MIS) or colloquially as a VESA mount, is a family of standards defined by the Video
Electronics Standards Association for mounting flat panel monitors, TVs, and other displays to
stands or wall mounts.[14] It is implemented on most modern flat-panel monitors and TVs.

For Computer Monitors, the VESA Mount typically consists of four threaded holes on the rear of
the display that will mate with an adapter bracket.

Rack mount

Rack mount computer monitors are available in two styles and are intended to be mounted into a
19-inch rack:
A fixed 19-inch (48 cm), 4:3 rack mount LCD monitor

A fixed rack mount monitor is mounted directly to the rack with the LCD visible at all times. The
height of the unit is measured in rack units (RU) and 8U or 9U are most common to fit 17-inch
or 19-inch LCDs. The front sides of the unit are provided with flanges to mount to the rack,
providing appropriately spaced holes or slots for the rack mounting screws. A 19-inch diagonal
LCD is the largest size that will fit within the rails of a 19-inch rack. Larger LCDs may be
accommodated but are 'mount-on-rack' and extend forward of the rack. There are smaller display
units, typically used in broadcast environments, which fit multiple smaller LCDs side by side
into one rack mount.

A 1U stowable clamshell 19-inch (48 cm), 4:3 rack mount LCD monitor with keyboard

A stowable rack mount monitor is 1U, 2U or 3U high and is mounted on rack slides allowing the
display to be folded down and the unit slid into the rack for storage. The display is visible only
when the display is pulled out of the rack and deployed. These units may include only a display
or may be equipped with a keyboard creating a KVM (Keyboard Video Monitor). Most common
are systems with a single LCD but there are systems providing two or three displays in a single
rack mount system.
A panel mount 19-inch (48 cm), 4:3 rack mount LCD monitor

Panel mount

A panel mount computer monitor is intended for mounting into a flat surface with the front of the
display unit protruding just slightly. They may also be mounted to the rear of the panel. A flange
is provided around the LCD, sides, top and bottom, to allow mounting. This contrasts with a rack
mount display where the flanges are only on the sides. The flanges will be provided with holes
for thru-bolts or may have studs welded to the rear surface to secure the unit in the hole in the
panel. Often a gasket is provided to provide a water-tight seal to the panel and the front of the
LCD will be sealed to the back of the front panel to prevent water and dirt contamination.

Open frame

An open frame monitor provides the LCD monitor and enough supporting structure to hold
associated electronics and to minimally support the LCD. Provision will be made for attaching
the unit to some external structure for support and protection. Open frame LCDs are intended to
be built in to some other piece of equipment. An arcade video game would be a good example
with the display mounted inside the cabinet. There is usually an open frame display inside all
end-use displays with the end-use display simply providing an attractive protective enclosure.
Some rack mount LCD manufacturers will purchase desk-top displays, take them apart, and
discard the outer plastic parts, keeping the inner open-frame LCD for inclusion into their

Security vulnerabilities
According to an NSA document leaked to Der Spiegel, the NSA sometimes swaps the monitor
cables on targeted computers with a bugged monitor cable in order to allow the NSA to remotely
see what's displayed on the targeted computer monitor.[15]

Van Eck phreaking is the process of remotely displaying the contents of a CRT or LCD by
detecting its electromagnetic emissions. It is named after Dutch computer researcher Wim van
Eck, who in 1985 published the first paper on it, including proof of concept. Phreaking is the
process of exploiting telephone networks, used here because of its connection to eavesdropping.
[citation needed]

See also
History of display technology

Flat panel display


Vector monitor

Virtual desktop


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External links

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