How Does a Computer Monitor Work?

Whether you use it for business or pleasure it’s highly likely that you have access to a computer, but when you’re surfing the internet or typing up reports have you ever given your monitor a second thought? We use them daily, but many of us have a lot of questions about our monitors and may not even realize it. What does “aspect ratio” mean? What is dot pitch? How much power does a display use? What is the difference between CRT and LCD? What does “refresh rate” mean? Or how does a display monitor work?

The monitor is probably the most important output device of a computer as far as user experience is concerned. Here is how it works. There are two main types of computer monitor, a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor or a liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor. Both types of monitor allow digital media to be displayed in real time but the way in which this display reaches us differs between the two. Most desktop computer monitors use a cathode ray tube (CRT) display. But laptops and notebooks rely on other image projection technologies like liquid crystal display (LCD), light-emitting diode (LED) or gas plasma.

But before we dive into their types, any computer monitor works much like your television in that it receives a signal from a source, in this case a video card, and relays the data received, on to the screen. Your computer monitor, video card, and operating system all work together, in concert, to produce what is displayed on the screen.

CRT Monitors Vs LCD Displays

CRT monitors are generally cheaper and more durable than LCD monitors. Computers with a CRT monitor send visual signals to a large vacuum tube at the back of the monitor. Inside this tube is a cathode with a heated filament that, as a response to the visual signals, produces streams of electrons.

The course of these electrons is then altered by a set of electromagnets that also respond to the visual signals sent from the computer. The electrons are aimed at a glass plate at the front of the monitor where they hit millions of pixels (small green, blue and red phosphor dots) that light up to create different colors. The streams of electrons touch the pixels between 50 to 100 times every second and this is what creates the interactive images we view on our monitor.

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Of the two monitors, LCD monitors are much lighter and smaller, they boast a fantastic screen resolution and require less energy than a CRT monitor.

LCD monitors are made up of two plates of polarized glass that have been specially treated. Sandwiched between the two plates of glass is a liquid crystal material that works in the opposite way to a CRT monitor by blocking out the majority of light. The liquid crystal material responds to an electrical current by allowing only certain wavelengths through the front of the monitor and blocking others, our brain then interprets these wavelengths as colors.

There is a third form of monitor also which provides worthy competition for the LCD and CRT versions, and that is the LED. The light-emitting diode is not as popular in the mainstream market as the two previously mentioned versions, but with options such as the Dell flat panel monitor with LED display, you a get brilliant, sharp display.

So, there you have it –now, next time you switch your computer on you know exactly how your monitor works. Hope now you understand your current display and also can make better decisions when purchasing your next one. ­


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