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  1. ReptilianAgent

    ReptilianAgent Member

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    Bringing Back CRT displays in Hard-Scifi

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by ReptilianAgent, Jan 1, 2017.

    In most modern SF we either see fancy hologram displays or something resembling a typical flat screen display that is seen in households today. I plan on breaking that trend in my SF novel by bringing back old school CRT monitors and 90's-esque tech to distinguish my science fiction setting from the many others out there.

    I want to give it a more 90's feel to the technology while still keeping it advanced and five-hundred years ahead of our time. The issue is that my novel is hard science fiction, I need a good reason to do this. It has to make sense because I want to create a future that is realistic and makes the reader believe that this could actually be our world in the next five centuries.

    In my novel, Humanity has colonized and settled on the fifteen closest solar systems to Sol. Typical colonies are domed or underground on barren exo-planets and moons with atmospheres toxic to humans or no atmosphere at all. Other colonies are city-sized orbital space stations that use centripetal force for artificial gravity. Ship and space station design is very utilitarian. Functionality should have higher priority over everything else because it takes a lot of energy and resources to constantly hold pressure and recirculate a breathable atmosphere inside of what is essentially a giant soda can with people living inside of it.

    So my original thought was
    "Perhaps CRT displays consume less power than there more advanced LCD and LED counterparts . . . right?"
    WRONG! Actually CRT stands for cathode ray tube. Cathode rays are electron beams, and they require a lot of energy to produce. More energy than what is needed to light up the LCD's or LED's in more modern displays.

    I could always use modern displays and give them a boxy utilitarian aesthetic, but it goes against the rule of functionality and utilitarianism. Flat displays are small, low-profile, and compact, they take up a lot less space than the cool boxy displays I want to use.

    I could definitely get away with this by putting these displays in household areas across human civilized space. Pop culture in my setting has taken a 90's turn. Ska music has regained popularity only after a couple centuries from now after all.

    But I don't want to use this tech in only a commercial and household setting. I want to use this on space ships and space stations and work environments, the setting that a majority of the main plot takes place on. I'm still brainstorming ideas.

    Who's to say that CRTs use up more energy than whatever tech exists 500 years from now?

    Actually . . . Moore's Law

    Damn it . . .

    Any input guys?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    CRTs would seem as out of place as when SF authors have people using tape drives. Sorry, but makes no sense to me for hard sci-fi.
     
  3. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    If you just really want CRT displays for aesthetic purposes just say its cyberpunk or retro-futurism. Of course, then you've got to make all other technology fit this mould to make it less of a contrivance and more of a stylistic choice. But plot wise and sensible development of technology wise, I can't think of a reason why they would.
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    Let me jump into my Dalorean and go 500 years from now to see what they say about CRT monitors.
    Maybe in John Titors universe they still use CRTs, would make sense considering they had to get
    a piece of tech from the 70s to fix their computer issues.
     
  5. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    This is print, not film/video, right? Which means you're going to go out of your way to explain the presence of something that most people will ignore, unless it is somehow made central to the plot.

    Sorry, but I don't see the point. Most SF that I can think of off the top of my head just refers to "the screen" or "the monitor", with no further description provided or needed.
     
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  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yup, I agree with Iain.

    But, just to play devil's advocate, I'll happily support ANYTHING that takes us away from the ridiculous translucent displays that are all the rage right now in Sci-Fi film and TV. Save for a heads-up display in some sort of vehicle, be it ground or flying, where keeping the road or air in front of you in view would be ideal, a translucent display in other settings would seem like a step back. I don't want to have to visually filter out elements of my surroundings from the screen display. I would NEVER buy such a thing.
     
  7. tonguetied

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is hard to justify, however you might consider that a CRT in theory could have a much higher resolution than even an OLED display, not sure what good that is considering our eyesight would be the limiting factor. Another possibility might be the image is holographic inside the tube, not a CRT at all but something that looks like it, the chamber allows the creation of a holographic display. And one more possibility would be that the image in your device is only visible to the species on the ship, humans I would suspect, for security purposes. Of course that would seem to be possible for an LCD display as well. Only a few years ago the rage was plasma and now you have a hard time finding one of those. Oh yeah another possibility reason is that LCDs are edge lit, maybe something about the ships power system causes lighting to have strange actions so an LCD display can't display a clear image - really a stretch.

    Hi-Fi enthusiasts often use vacuum tube amplifiers claiming their analog signal provides a more perfect match to the original sound so your concept is not necessarily so far out there as it would seem.
     
  8. Sam Woodbury

    Sam Woodbury Member

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    It sounds like it is more of a stylistic thing that can be justified without them actually using CRT technology. Why would such an advanced civilization use an old likely obsolete technology?
    Perhaps the casing of computer displays or tv screen like devices are more boxy to give them more prominence or presence, just like cell phones have recently become larger or cars had unnecessary fins in the fifties.
     
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  9. Sam Woodbury

    Sam Woodbury Member

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    It seems like a lot of futuristic societies use what is state of the art in the era that produced it, like the low resolution computer graphics and data tapes in Star Wars Ep IV (which were also in Rogue One for continuity purposes).
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. But CRTs aren't state of the art for works being produced now.
     
  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    I tend to agree with the 'why would you want to ?' line of argument

    But assuming you do the obvious answer is to rewrite history so that the first jump from Sol 1 to (where ever) took place in the early 90s - thus CRT technology was prevalent and in your universe plasma and lcd tech never got developed in the colonies that were set up at that time and was not exported from earth later because of a loss of contact/severing of relations/ low prioritzation compared with other supplies or whatever
     
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't get past "why do you want this?"
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    Hell just because can be good enough.

    In the frost range stories I've got a situation where firearms and laser weapons are banned on world, so all the internecine strife is fought out with bows and swords (etc) , but the off world military have access to higher tech weaponry.

    The slightly shaky justification was that it ensures no planetary government or power can threaten the powers that be, but in general it was just because i wanted to.
     
  14. ReptilianAgent

    ReptilianAgent Member

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    The reason why I want to do this was more of a stylistic thing. I want to give my setting more of an Identity and to help distinguish it from other SF out there. A great deal of SF written in the past decade show off some radically futuristic technology with a too similar style of "sleek, shiny, clean, and super advanced". I want to take things a step back, not in terms of scientific and technological advancement, but in terms of style. Yes It's in print, so it doesn't matter too much, but I kind of want to create a vivid description of my setting and describe to my readers where it's necessary. CRT's probably wont work, and I could probably find a better way. My goal is to create a future that's as believable as possible, while still keeping things unique and giving it an unusual retro touch(just a touch) that you don't see in other stories of the same genre. What I want to do isn't entirely dependent on the existence of CRT's, and I have thrown in a couple of aspects that still give it a 90's in the future vibe while still being a hard Sci-Fi and not cyber punk or retro-futurist.
    I do appreciate the input guys. You have actually given me some good ideas.
     
  15. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee In my defense, words are my weapons. Contributor

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    Sound like you want to do what fallout did.

    Their theory was, around the 50's, when we invented the computer chip, which made everything drastically smaller, they didn't. This's threw off the whole design curve, and helped mold the whole fallout universe, which is similar to ours, only with a 50's feel... Also, almost everything has a exploded at least once.
     
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  16. ReptilianAgent

    ReptilianAgent Member

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    I'm not too sure if I want to go the alternate history route. It's more of a design trend and culture in the time period I'm writing. Though alternate history could be something I might want to try, I vaguely refer to our present era and history as is.
     
  17. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    I see no reason to have CRTs, we replaced them for good technical reason. The aesthetic though, would be entirely cultural. You can easily make an LCD that looks like an old CRT. You just need to have a reason why society would become obsessed with making things look like that.

    I recently read a book that was set thirty years in the future, but was full of 80s pop culture. A guy who was basically the next generations Mark Zuckerburg died, and willed his massive fortune to whoever solved an online video game quest. He had an obsession with the dawn of video games so it had children of 2050 playing Zork and PacMan while listening to Rush.
     
  18. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a lot of the discussion here is good, and the actual CRTs might be a problem. However there are certain things to think about that might help you.

    For instance, if your initial thought was that the CRTs would use less energy, I think you were on the right track. Figure out what actually would need to happen in order to make your tech run on minimal energy - which might be a necessity depending on the nature and resource composition of your planets. That could be especially true if you're doing real Hard SF - which is going to put a serious damper on faster-than-light travel. If you're on some resource-poor planet without a lot of important minerals, you might have to run your entire society on power-save mode - which might be a good way to get yourself to the sort of text-only communications you're looking for.

    Also, you CAN retard tech in certain areas if you explain it and make it important, just be aware that people have expectations for what "the future" looks like, and don't like being told that they are being too optimistic (I'm writing a near future and I get busted constantly for having smartphones, which I refuse to get rid of for exactly that reason)
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
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  19. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    From an engineering viewpoint (MS in aero). CRTs are a bad idea across the board.
    1. They rely on a heated filament that sends the electron beams on their way. This is fragile and consumes power
    2. They are very high voltage devices @15000 volts that require heavily insulated ancillary equipment: flyback transformers, etc.
    3. The entire CRT is fragile, essentially glass containing a hard vacuum. The slightest nick can cause an implosion almost like a small grenade. Back in the 60s when I was a teenager repairing TVs you wore no rings or anything metal when working around the CRT. And we disposed of CRTs by tossing them down the stairs into a concrete basement and slamming the door quickly, then sweeping up the glass shards. Just putting them, unimploded, into the trash would be serious hazard to the trash collector.
    4. Not only the filament, but all the internal guts in the neck of the tube, are fragile and don't like vibration.
    5. They are a raster scan technology, meaning the beam sweeps horizontally across the screen, then flies back (the role of the HV flyback transformer) to start the next line a little below the previous, then flyback vertically to the first line after painting the screen. This limits the resolution, and the speed of display. Typically the horizontal sweep is about 15000 sweeps per second, the vertical is 60 cycles. Teenagers' ears can hear the horizontal sweep, adult ears could not... a very high pitched "zee"
    There is a lot these displays cannot do with any resolution.

    The 90s TVs were about the zenith of that technology, but for all the reasons above, you would not want them in any kind of a mobile, vibrating platform if you had an alternative. Bulky, fragile, inefficient, limited resolution.
     
  20. idle

    idle Active Member

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    You could probably come up with a new technology that would require a bulky body - that way you could keep a similar design.
     
  21. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    There is a minimum amount of energy required to light up a display. In order for it to be readable, you want about 1e3 lux. One lux takes amount 4e15 photons / second. Each photon is in the 450-700um range, so that puts each photon at around 2.5 eV. That gives you about 1e19 eV/sec or about 1.5 Joules/sec or 1.5 Watts.

    That the theoretical lower limit on how much power it takes to turn a display on, technology will get us closer and closer to that asymptotically.
     
  22. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    ....and we've jumped past my ability to comment without research.
     
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  23. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    I am the future...:p
    64combo.jpg
    ...And I have a floppy disk drive. :p
     
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  24. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Can always posit new technology beyond our current understanding.
     
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  25. tonguetied

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is the right concept, not sure if the OP was using FTL but it would bring up the physical capability for any electronics to work if I understand the c concept even marginally. Using our current technology the light inside a ship traveling at c would not move anywhere in the direction of the ship and in all other directions it would be distorted, etc., along with electronics of course. So a technology that uses something like a CRT to display an image to overcome the nothing faster than c limitation is a justification.
     
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