What is a CRT monitor?

A CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor is an analog display device that creates a visible image on the screen by directing three electron beams over millions of phosphor points to light them up. On a color monitor, the screen is made up of multiple stripes of alternating dots of red, green, and blue phosphor, which are activated by electrons and combine to form countless different hues.

CRT monitor.

The electron beam repeatedly scans the entire front of the tube to “paint” and refresh the image nearly 100 times every second. Computer monitors and televisions that use CRT technology have large, heavy physical housings. The long length between the front screen and the back of the box is necessary to accommodate the length of the vacuum tube.

Old CRT monitor.

A brief history of CRT monitors

Cathode ray tubes were commonly used in televisions and computer monitors in the mid-20th century. During all this time, manufacturers have continually improved performance and resolution. Most computer monitors in the 1970s only displayed green text on a black screen. In 1990, IBM’s Extended Graphics Array (XGA) display boasted 16.8 million colors at a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels.

Some gamers believe that the faster refresh rate and minimal motion blur of CRT monitors create a better gaming experience, especially for older titles with low resolution graphics.

In the early 2000s, advances in technology made flat-panel displays more affordable. These newer screen types (LCD, Plasma and OLED) do not require a large housing and are more energy efficient. Manufacturing costs are lower than CRT monitors, and flat panel monitors can be made in larger sizes than CRTs. These factors make flat panel monitors much more popular with consumers.

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CRT monitors have heavy, bulky physical housings and comparatively small screens.

Curiosities

German physicists Julius Plücker and Johann Wilhelm Hittorf first observed cathode rays in 1869.

The Braun tube was the oldest version of a CRT. It was invented by the German physicist Ferdinand Braun in 1897.

Japanese engineer Kenjiro Takayanagi demonstrated a CRT television in 1929.

The German manufacturer Telefunken began manufacturing CRT television sets in 1934.

LCD screens overtook CRTs in 2008.

Is a CRT monitor dangerous?

Depending on your age, you may remember your parents scolding you for sitting too close to the TV and claiming that doing so would damage your eyes. However, these fears seem largely unfounded. There are some legitimate health and safety concerns with CRT monitors, but none of them link sitting too close to the screen with negative effects on vision.

A CRT monitor emits X-ray radiation, but it is a small amount that is regulated by the FDA. There is a significant amount of electrical charge stored in a CRT even when it is turned off. Breaking a CRT monitor or attempting to disassemble it without the proper tools and training can cause a serious electrical shock. Puncturing the vacuum tube will create an implosion that can spray glass shards everywhere. CRT monitors contain toxic materials, including mercury, which can leak out if the monitor breaks.

If you have a CRT monitor you no longer want, it’s not safe to toss it in your trash can. You should contact your local authorities for information on safe disposal methods and/or recycling options.

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Is CRT Better Than LCD?

While flat-panel LCD and OLED monitors and televisions are more common today than CRTs, the older technology is still superior in some ways. A CRT monitor can display/refresh an image faster than an LCD screen. This means the monitor can respond faster to input and avoid motion-blur issues that are common in LCD screens. The color range and contrast is often better on a CRT, and this type of monitor supports deeper black tones. For some computer gamers, these advantages are enough to warrant scouring the internet for old CRT monitors.

Can You Still Buy CRT Monitors?

If you want to check out the benefits of a CRT monitor for yourself, prepare for a bit of work. Because CRTs aren’t manufactured anymore, you won’t be able to grab one at your local big box store. You’ll probably be able to find a decent selection on eBay or through Craigslist or your local thrift store. CRT monitors can be pricey, especially if you have to pay for shipping, and it’s important to make sure you choose a model that’s compatible with your computer or gaming console.

Will CRT Monitors Make a Comeback?

When LCDs took over the market in the early 2000s, most companies drastically reduced their CRT manufacturing to account for the decreased demand. Sony stopped making CRT monitors in 2005, and 2008 was the last year Samsung introduced new CRT models. Despite pleas from a small number of passionate gamers who prefer CRT screens over LCDs, the lack of adequate market demand will likely prevent any major company from restarting production any time soon.

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Flat-panel monitors are available in bigger screen sizes than CRTs, and they don’t take up a lot of front-to-back space.

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