Non-backlit, Monochrome LCD or other good displays for shell use

Steve yorvik.ubunto at
Mon Feb 8 09:47:05 UTC 2010

On Mon, 08 Feb 2010 01:37:59 -0000, BC <pencileraser at> wrote:

> Hello,
> This question is not Ubuntu-specific, but as an Ubuntu and Linux user, I
> thought I would turn here first.  I would appreciate any leads about  
> where
> better to ask this question.
> I find using modern-day CCFL-powered LCD displays (tethered or external)  
> to
> be exhausting because of the intensity of staring at a focused light  
> source
> for so long (I also have an eye condition).  To some extent CRTs were a
> little easier on the eyes for me back when, but I'd like to dig deeper to
> use a more antiquated tech.
> I primarily am in the shell all of the time, so I'd like to find a very
> lo-fi solution that is both easy on the eyes and, ideally, more
> 'environmental' in the sense of having low power usage, low footprint,  
> etc.
> I would also prefer a much smaller display (think early IBM/Apple sized
> screen.)  Since I would be using plain white on black text all the time,
> considerations of resolution, fidelity, etc., happily go out the window.
> Now, as a point of comparison, I have a Japanese electronic dictionary  
> that
> uses a dot-matrix monochrome FSTN LCD display.  It is not backlit and can
> only be read under direct light.  See here for an image -
>  The one on
> the left, labeled FSTN, is what I'm talking about.  The newer ones have
> gleefuly inserted backlights and high-contrast stuff.  These use a
> technology that is reminiscent of calculators and other monochrome  
> devices.
> Note that the link is for their newer TFT display, which they are  
> touting as
> better in comparison to the traditional FSTN style.  Significant  
> engineering
> has gone into this, though, so the screen is not gray or green or washed  
> out
> like old GameBoys and other devices of yore.  It's essentially like  
> e-ink,
> only with a much better refresh rate.  Why this never caught on is beyond
> me.
> For a little more English-language background, we're talking about
> super-twisted nematic displays -
>  They remain  
> in
> use in electronic dictionaries (largely a Japanese phenomenon), so my
> concern is that digging up some antique Western laptop with STN isn't  
> going
> to have nearly the excellent response time or contrast that these do.
> As far as I can gather, these kinds of display are prohibitively  
> expensive
> (or there is no demand) to produce, so they are rarely seen outside of  
> small
> handheld devices.
> Antique laptops used to use monochrome LCDs, but what little I've been  
> able
> to find about them suggests they were very washed out or very small  
> (e.g. HP
> Portable Plus), though I'd be happy to be proven otherwise.  This  
> technology
> was alive and well in Japanese word processor devices in the 80s and 90s  
> (
> I'm not above going a DIY/mod route, but obviously it would be easiest to
> have a small device or display that I can relatively easily get a shell
> running on.  Does anyone have any thoughts about certain older displays  
> that
> are non-backlit monochrome LCDs?  The no-backlight is an important caveat
> for me.  A lot of monochrome LCDs incorporated a backlight, but I want  
> to be
> able to use something that can only be read under diffuse lighting, not  
> by
> staring _into_ a light source.
> Alternatively, what are your experiences using the shell on older EGA/VGA
> monitors (monochrome, green, orange, etc.)  I am too young to have used  
> one
> of these except only glancingly.  I realize that most would advocate  
> bigger,
> brighter, non-refreshing displays as easier on the eyes, but I would  
> really
> love to hear your opinions about using first-generation CRTs.
> Thanks for your feedback and suggestions of where to look further.
> -BC
I use an old monochrome crt multisync monitor on my server which I find  
pleasant to use.

One area where mono monitors are still used is industrial stuff such as


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