CRT Proportions

We are used to viewing documents and magazines with dimensions such as a standard piece of 8 1/2 By 11 paper. Has there been any movement to make our computer monitors taller and less wide? Yes, we can make page fit the screen, but that requires a huge monitor that has a lot of wasted area. Seems like home entertainment is going to wide screen format more and more, so are we going to be forever stuck with this situation, or is the “paperless world” gonna force a change in format of documents online?

I used to work for a PC magazine and last year we reviwed a monitor that was designed with an A4 sheet of paper in mind. It was a TFT (flat screen) screen that was just bigger than your average sheet of paper (18.1 inch viewable diagonal). Vitally, it could be rotated, so it would be much like a widescreen TV in landscape mode and ideal for programs like MS Word in portrait - a switch rotates the image appropriately. I don’t know how well it has sold, and I guess it’s popularity would influence whether more of these types of monitors are produced. I haven’t followed this up either but you can by checking out Here in the UK it retailed at £799 which is not a bad price, and great if you’re also into watching DVD movies on your PC.

Erm, forgot to mention the model which is ViewSonic VPD150, and the link I provided no longer works. I did find the actual monitor here:

So flat the walls are jealous…

I worked for many years as a technical writer in the wunnerful world of IT. I worked with a “paper-shaped” monitor as long ago as 1987 or so, but I haven’t seen many around since then.

As I recall, the monitor was one of those things that seemed like a good idea in theory, but it wasn’t in practice. There were all sorts of problems with practicality and compatibility. One example. I was doing a lot of DTP at the time, and with some page views I could get the full HEIGHT of the page layour edit view on the monitor, wow!, but not the full WIDTH! So the whole point of the monitor - far less scrolling up and down a page - was ruined by EXTRA scrolling left to right! That was just one example. After about 2 days of discovering how much hassle was involved, we sent it back to our office supplier and got a regular monitor instead.

I don’t think there’s going to be any significant change ahead in terms of how most monitors are oriented. If you were a manufacturer, which would you do - build 'em the way a gazillion users expect them to be, and seem happy with? Or try a radical new design that might set the world alight, but will probably sink like a rock? But Ben Yacobi’s find looks interesting.

For magazine publishing at least, the holy grail is monitors that can show two sheets at full size at the same time. When people read a magazine, they see two pages at a time, so that’s what has to be designed for. The result is a 17x11 monitor, which is widescreen, not vertical.

Which is close to the aspect ratio of the SGI flat panel, and one of its selling points. Unfortunately, they’ve also had difficulty getting the video card makers to play ball with them and their wierd 1600 x 1024 resolution. Not to mention that they initially tried to set a digital LCD interface standard that flopped when the industry embraced DVI instead. They’ve since supported DVI. For their initial version, Number Nine video was essentially the only video card manufacturer that would make a card to support it, and a lot of people in the market for a flat panel at that time rejected it on those grounds alone. Gorgeous looking monitor, though.

Good info on some of the new equipment out there, but I don’t buy the bit about getting two pages side by side on a CRT. As far as that being like a magazine, there is no reason for this. Two pages side by side does not address the original problem, viewing portrait type documents on a landscape CRT. Two pages just compounds the problem. When people read magazines they usually fold one page over. Having two pages side by side is just the result of printing on both sides of paper, there is no need to emulate this on a CRT.

Another argument for the SGI “wide screen” is the ability to compare two standard pages side-by-side. That’s an argument which has some merit for doing things like cut and paste editing from one document into another, or manually comparing two drafts for appearance.

IMO, the bottom line is that people perform so many different varied tasks with their computers that there really isn’t an “ideal” aspect ratio for the screen, especially since whatever tools you are using will probably want to take some of the desktop real estate around your work anyway, in ways that are not terribly predictable.

For myself, I just want lots and lots of pixels and a BIG screen. The more “stuff” I can get on there at once, the happier I am. I’m willing to push my font size down to the limits of legibility to be able to see LOTS of text.