Whatever happened to …

… 640 x 480?

This is a throwback to a simpler time. I was inspired to think about this after poking around last night. I was inspired to write because, well, I needed something for Sunday morning and thought I’d like to see how others feel about this.

Things were so much simpler. You bought a computer; you bought a CRT monitor to go with it; you lugged it home; you found deskspace strong enough to hold it; you turned it on and got at it.

Typically, the screen resolution right out of the box was 640 x 480. This referred to the resolution which was typically 640 pixels across the screen and 480 pixels up and down. Everything that you did was displayed by the pixels and the colours that they displayed.

But, this is technology. Nothing stays the same!

Someone decided that a higher resolution would be a nicer thing. For most of us, that mean an upgrade in resolution to 1028 x 768. I remember being wowed the first time I saw a monitor in this setting. So much more could be displayed on the screen. The downside was that the text was smaller. Thanks to a terrific optometrist, I accommodated.

Then, the world exploded. Apple now has something they call retina display which people buy into just because of the name and it’s cool.  It’s something like 300 pixels per inch. Monitors have so much higher resolution now. Fortunately, the screens also have gone larger to accommodate. Recently, I cleaned out an old monitor and threw it on to view it for old time’s sake. How could people (i.e. me) live like that?

So, last night I was playing around with the resolution on this Chromebook. I changed it to the default

which you can see is 1536 x 864. It’s still at this setting as I type this post but I’m feeling the pain. I’ll probably go back to 1807 x 1016 although I could go as small as 2194 x 1234 or as large as 1182 x 665. There’s a price to be paid in font size and fortunately a separate setting allows for the adjustment of the font. The trick is to find the right balance between screen space and readability.

For me, the biggest annoyance are menus. There’s so many options in programs these days that an entire pull down menu doesn’t display without scrolling. That’s just wrong! I’m looking at you, Twitter.

For a Sunday morning, your thoughts…

  • Do you mess around with screen resolution or do you work with the defaults right out of the box?
  • What’s your current screen resolution?
  • What’s the highest/lowest resolution that your eyes can tolerate (and read)?
  • Does resolution factor into your choice of computer?
  • Does 1080p mean anything to you and affect your viewing on either a computer or television?
  • Have you been around a computer long enough to have used a computer with 640 x 480? Or lower?
  • Mathematics teachers should be able to find all kinds of problems/questions with this concept.  Can you help them out?
  • Bonus question: what’s the screen resolution on your Smartphone?

As always, please share your visual thoughts in the comments below.

This is part of a regular Sunday morning series. You can read all the past issues here.

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It’s not original if you read it anywhere else.

Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is created by me at the keyboard or as a result of an aggregator of my daily reading under the title OTR Links. On Fridays, look for my signature post "This Week in Ontario Edublogs" where I try to share some great writing from Ontario Educators. The other regular post appears Sunday mornings as I try to start a conversation about things that have gone missing from our daily lives.

2 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. My Dell XPS 13 has 4k resolution so the text, at its default setting, is too small for my old eyes. Fortunately there’s a setting to crank up the text size.

    Another problem with 4k, however, is that many programs do not scale properly, most commonly with their menus and toolboar icons. The only solution, in most cases, has been to lower the resolution back to 1280×1024.

    If I were buying the laptop again today, I would not have opted for the 4k display.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s good advice, Peter. Which XPS 13 did you buy? I’ve got my eye on the Developer Edition which comes with Ubuntu installed. The very small bezels are intriguing.


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