08.06.12

Preservationists lament the loss of old arcade displays.

Cathode ray tube monitors (CRTs) are no longer being manufactured. Good riddance to those oversized monsters, right? Well, since CRTs have less lag than LCDs, retro gaming may never be the same. 

Why would anyone want to put up with the size and weight of a CRT these days? One reason is the refresh rate, CRT displays are capable of very high refresh rates and that means smooth, fast motion. The pixels displayed on LCD monitors change much more slowly than CRT phosphors (the material responsible for emitting light in CRT monitors) because of this, video with fast movement will sometimes appeared blurred on LCD screens.

When it comes to classic gaming even the technical deficiencies of CRT monitors are desirable, including an effect known as “pixel blur”. This effect of pixels blurring together on CRT’s is what gives classic arcade games that soft, welcoming, nostalgic glow. What would show as sharp, crisp lines on new digital monitors are the mere impression of geometrical shapes on an old CRT. Without these warm analog fuzzies, classic games seem cold and exposed.

Arcade cabinets especially risk looking awful and playing terribly on LCDs, as their precision games often rely on having very little lag time. Hold onto your CRTs while they last!