Maybe You Didn’t Notice
Display technology is changing and it’s changing very fast. Sure, you could say that display technology evolves at the same rapid pace as everything else, and you’d be right, but what you have to consider are the standards for TV and Internet. These standards, while completely necessary, are what keeps amazing things out of our reach It’s really not that long ago that we all had CRT’s all around our houses! For many, this is just 4 or 5 years ago. I for one used to have a 21” Sony Trinitron that I swore by. In fact, I was always bedazzled by it’s immense size, which was amplified by the fact that I had to sit with my nose pressed up against the screen because the back of the display was so deep that there was hardly room on my desk for it. On the other hand, some things have not evolved as rapidly. In fact, this one thing, the thing that defines how we look at the Internet, or watch TV, has only really started to evolve. I’m talking about pixel density.
Think about it. For years and years you were OK with watching a standard television set. For our stateside readers, this means that you were OK watching 480 lines of interlaced, epileptic seizure inducing, 30 frames-per-second video. We’re talking 640×480 (simulated). You have to dip your toes into the shallow end of the smart-phone pool to even try and get a handset with sub 480 resolution in 2012. A DVD is even beyond the abilities of a standard NTSC television, matching the resolution but able to display full-frames. We take all of these things for granted today. Now, what about your computer monitor? What really changed here, other than the move from CRT to LCD/LED? For (barely) decades, the web has been designed around the capabilities of the average monitor. In the 90’s, the average monitor could reliably display 640×480, not completely unlike a standard television (remember WebTV?). This changed a little as we moved into the late 90’s, where more and more websites would demand, or recommend, that you have a display of 800×600. Great, we’re moving forward right? Nope. In the very late 90’s and early 2000’s, laptop adoption rates soared, and while your shiny new 17” CRT was possible of doing 1280×1024 (a super-awkward 5:4 aspect ratio), your laptop was not. And this is where things stayed, all the way through 2012.
This is the year that everything changes, forever.
Ironically, the devices that helped stagnate to web are the same ones that are going to change it, completely. When the iPad was unveiled in 2010, it had one feature that always puzzled me, and it wasn’t until I got a giant 1080p computer monitor that I realized the reason for the decision. It’s shaped like a little standard definition television. I thought to myself, “this thing is perfect for watching movies on, why isn’t it 16:9 like an HDTV?”, followed by “how are they sourcing these displays? Who is making such a stupidly shaped display?”. The answer is in the standard. Not a standard set by Apple, but one respected by them. 1024X768 is the perfect resolution to view a standard web-page with and regardless of how many apps are available in the App Store, browsing in Safari is the most important part of the iPad experience.
This may be getting off track a little bit, but higher resolution 16:9 Android tablets miss the mark here. While I’m pretty well invested into the Android platform, I’m not afraid to admit that browsing the Internet is a million times more pleasant due to lack of page-scaling and the shape.
Apple has forged ahead with a unique 2048×1536 “Retina” display. This display is exactly 4x the resolution of the original iPad, and all pages are viewed, by default, at 400% of their original size. This is great for text, since text is scalable, but images are not so easy. Here is a small snippet from The Powerbase, as it would appear on an iPad with a retina display. This snippet, at only 600 pixels wide, is absolutely gigantic, and the first thing you will notice is the blurry image that has been interpolated to 4x it’s original size.
Here is another image of The Powerbase as it might be viewed in its entirety on an iPad at 2048×1536. To get the full effect, you will probably need to download the image and view it at 100%. You may have to scroll from side-to-side to see it all but this is a great example of how many different images and different sizes will appear. Turn the page to check it out.