A hail of letters dropped on us after our recent series on computer monitors and the circuit cards that make them work. But only one of you caught our goof!
Dear Judi and Frank, In your article on monitors, you made a valiant effort to explain interlacing of the horizontal scanning of monitors. But you wrongly stated that a 60 Hz scan rate completes a picture screen `once every 30 seconds.' Since half the picture gets displayed in 1/60 second at 60 Hz, 1/60 plus 1/60 should be 1/30 second for a full display, or conversely, one sees `30 frames per second.' Freehold, N.J., computer tutorDear Tute, Whoops! Thanks for correcting our arithmetic. It's nice to know we have careful readers.
Dear Frank and Judi, I bought an Epson laptop computer. For long-term use at home, Epson recommends their own CGA color monitor. To save money, I purchased a Samsung Paper White model monitor. It gives white letters on a black screen. I would like to reverse it to get black letters and a white screen. I spoke to Samsung's `technical person' in California to ask how to do it. `Good question,' he said, but he was of no help.
Do you know what I can do to get it reversed? Freehold, N.J., hopeful
Dear Hope, Sorry. Your laptop's at war with your monitor. So, probably, is your software.
A lot of us would like to get our screens looking like paper, with black writing on a white background. We can't without cooperation from the monitor, the program we're using and the circuit board in our computers that sends intelligent signals to the monitor.
First, let's look at the circuit board in your Epson laptop. Its video output is designed to display light type against a dark background. That's because, on the laptop's own tiny built-in screen, light yellow type is easier to read on a dark golden background than the other way around.
In addition, Epson's CGA color monitor makes each letter using only about four dots horizontally and eight vertically. That's not very many compared with today's newer screens. Especially in low resolution, light letters look sharper against a dark screen than the other way around.
Even when two pieces of hardware - monitor and circuit board - are set to display light on dark, the program you're using could reverse that. The latest version of Microsoft Word, for example, can be set up to show black letters on a white background. Usually!
The program only gives this color combination if it can make your circuit board and monitor follow its orders. Microsoft's technical support people haven't tried all the brands out there to see which combinations obey orders.
Let's say you could get reversed colors. There's still a problem getting sharp black lettering. For that, the circuit board and monitor can't be built to the old CGA standard.
They must adhere to one of the three newer standards: EGA, VGA or Hercules. For the best black on white, we prefer Hercules.
For your laptop computer, you're stuck with CGA. If your computer could accept a different video display circuit, we'd recommend installing a Hercules circuit board. It uses about nine to 12 dots to create one letter. If your program sends separate signals for bold type and italics, this board does more than reverse colors. It also shows bold type as extra-dark and italics as slanted letters.
Even with the right board and programs, you'd be disappointed if your monitor is a cut-rate brand. Making black type readable on white monitors requires precision-made equipment. You can't generally depend on high quality control in inexpensive brands.
We recently had the pleasure of testing a new line of monitors from a company called Sampo, headquartered in Norcross, Ga. Those folks must know the frustrations computer users like us have gone through to get sharp black-on-white displays. Their `paper white' monitor comes with its own special circuit board and software.
Plug in the board, start the software, run your programs and wow! The 20-inch Sampo OfficePRO II can display two full side-by-side pages, black on white, clearly enough to be read on screen!
Dear Judi and Frank, I plan to prepare newspaper ads 10 inches wide by 14 inches deep on a Mac IICX using Quark Express and Adobe Illustrator. My ads are mostly type, not illustrations. I need to do color logos about 15 percent of the time. I'm having difficulty deciding which monitor to buy. New York agency
Dear Adi, We can understand why you're having trouble deciding. It seems like there are more models of monitors than computers! If money's no object, we'd choose from two monitors made by Princeton Graphic Systems of Princeton, N.J. Both work with Macs as well as IBM compatibles.
Our favorite graphics guru adores the Ultra 16 Model color monitor. This $1,400 baby can display a 16-inch image of your ad in full color. If you're feeling less flush, check out the 14-inch Ultra 14, which lists for $900.
If tiny details like strict alignment are more important to you than onscreen color, we recommend Princeton's Imager model. Retailing at $2,000, it can display 150 dots per inch (dpi) in black on white. Since a good laser printer puts 300 dots of ink per inch on paper, seeing 150 dpi on a monitor is mind-boggling! If price is a major consideration, have a look at the Sampo monitors. As we said above, their general quality impresses us.
Again, choose color if you have to see color, black and white if maximum on-screen resolution is more important.
(C) 1989 P/K Associates Inc., 4343 W Beltline Hwy, Madison WI 53711.