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IBM PC 5150 with a green monochrome CRT monitor
The CRT monitor
The CRT — that big, dumb box sitting on top of your computer. You might even be staring into one now. The one pictured above is an IBM PC 5150 with a green monochrome CRT monitor, the 5151, dating from 1981. Where do these things come from? Why are they still here? Shouldn't we all be using flexible, paper-thin, wall-sized displays or holograms by now? Why do we still need a big vacuum tube in a box shooting electrons at us? It all sounds so Victorian.
This technology in fact goes back to 1897, when German physicist Ferdinand Braun created the first version of the cathode-ray tube. While vacuum tube-based technology has disappeared from most electronics, it has stuck around a disturbingly long time in the computer monitor department.
One reason the CRT refuses to fully die is that it actually has some advantages that are pretty difficult to replicate on flat-panel displays, like colour accuracy, the lack of input lag and a wide viewing angle.
Production of CRTs is falling fast now, with LCDs surpassing them in 2007. However, they are still standard in visual industries like photography and graphics, and some gamers also prefer them, so perhaps they will stick around for a while yet.
Photo credit: Boffy/Wikimedia Commons