For reference:

I am thinking of a story where travel between worlds exists, but people have to "start over" on each world. So they can't just take their current computers to a new world. The monitors would be used to display some kind of wave or energy that is related to the travel.


My question is, are CRT monitors actually more simple to create or could we make an LCD or Plasma display quicker and easier if we were to start over? Or is it a situation where if you can make a CRT you can make a more flat monitor with just as much effort? Or is there some other factor that only a CRT can provide?

Note: the science-based tag is referring to the differences between CRT monitors and other forms of monitors, the inter-dimensional transport is obviously less hard.

  • $\begingroup$ erm... you know this things shoot beta radiation right?😎 $\endgroup$ – user6760 Nov 12 '17 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ While Gary's answer is excellent, it's recommend that you not actually accept an answer for 24 hours because very creative people from all over the world participate on WB.SE, but once a question is marked answered the participation drops off. Who knows what gems of insight might be missed? $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 12 '17 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ Start over at what level? Stone Age, Bronze Age, modern tools, unassembled machine parts? There is very little difference between two successive stages. Why does the restriction exist? Take the example of the Terminator movies: only organic matter could travel in external contact with the time machine, which set the constraint for the entire series. What's your constraint? How does it affect what you can bring along? $\endgroup$ – nzaman Nov 12 '17 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ CRTs are more durable. I don't know if that makes any difference. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Nov 15 '17 at 8:01

Creating the highly refined silicon wafers suitable for constructing flat screens and the UV lithograhpy necessary for practical flat screen are both far more difficult than the construction of CRT screens. Modern flat screen manufacture uses transistor array printers, which are arguably even more complex than general UV lithography.

CRT only requires vacuum tube technology, which were almost trivial to manufacture in comparison.

It is easy to forget that when introduced in 1997 a 40 inch flat screen cost 15,000 USD a mere 20 years ago.

If you had knowledge of the necessary technology to produce vacuum tubes amplifiers and flat panels in 1850, you could have been producing vacuum tubes within a year. Flat panels would have required decades at a minimum (even If you had sufficient electric power, which only became commercially available in 1882).

Expensive vacuum tubes light bulbs using platinum wiring were available decades before Edison's patent, switching to tungsten would have been relatively easy, and the thermionic effort was completely detectable (if not understand) with the technology of the time.

  • $\begingroup$ I realize I may not have asked this question correctly, so as an addition would it still be easier to make a CRT even if you had knowledge of how to create a CRT and LED/LCD monitor? I may have implied that past knowledge would not transfer. $\endgroup$ – Wolfie_Waffle Nov 12 '17 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Wolfie_Waffle, It's always easier to create older technology... possibly not more convenient (once you've trashed the manufacturing facility, it's a pain to bring it online again), but if the choice were "we don't have A or B, which is quicker to bring online?" the answer is tube tech. Also, note that voltage/signal waveforms are trivial on CRTs ("oscilloscopes"), which is very handy when developing higher tech, but it's very non-trivial on LCD/LED where the signal must be converted accurately to a digital spectrum. I'll not go back, but tubes are cool. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 12 '17 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Sounds good, the oscilloscopes I could even work into the whole between worlds teleportation thing, whatever important energy involved that needs to be monitored would certainly be in analogue. $\endgroup$ – Wolfie_Waffle Nov 12 '17 at 20:02

If we roughly assume that "easier" technologies are discovered before "difficult" ones, and we see that CRT screens have been realized long before other types of displays, we can conclude that, yes, CRT are easier to make: one needs technology available in the first half of the XX century.

Since technological development in your world starts over every time, it is sound to assume that the followed path will be the same.

Note: flatness and compact dimensions on CRT is almost utopia, due to the very physics behind them.

  • $\begingroup$ Florescent lights were invented and manufactured by Tesla many yeas before Edison commercialized the incandescent light bulb. It is not the level of technology, it is the degree of marketing that determines commercial success. Edison wanted to sell electricity, not light, so his backers went with the more power-hungry solution. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Nov 12 '17 at 6:28
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme: That's so wrong it's painful. Decent (for industrial uses) low-temperature fluorescent lights became available only around the middle of the 20th century, and fluorescent lights with non-horrible color reproduction (so that people would consider installing them in their homes) became available in the 1970s. Simply having a source of some random sort of light does not a usable lamp make. Do you really believe that for example during WW2 when economies worldwide were dedicated to the war effort fluorescent lamps would not have been widely used had they been available? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 13 '17 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Tesla had a working fluorescent light in his laboratory while Edison was doing his experiments on filaments. See for instance his America is built on false facts and information. The rot goes deep. Edison was always only interested in direct current, while Tesla explored ac, and of course fluorescent does not work at normal dc voltages. When Tesla's alternating current distribution system won out over Edison's dc system. all credit for ac was given to Edison. Tesla is still not given credit in America for most of his discoveries. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Nov 13 '17 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ Even today, America's lust for oil is preventing them from seeing what Europe already knows - electric vehicles are far more efficient that internal combustion. They still stick to Microsoft when Unix versions are far superior. America is known for suppressing better, but competing, technologies. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Nov 13 '17 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ To get an idea of Tesla's genius, and how advanced his thinking really was, see in his own words EXPERIMENTS WITH ALTERNATE CURRENTS OF HIGH POTENTIAL AND HIGH FREQUENCY . But J. P.Morgan was so intent on financially destroying George Westinghouse that he implemented a vary carefully constructed campaign to suppress everything Tesla, and America went down a blind path for 80 years or so as a result. Tesla was a socialist, and did not believe in patents. He gave his inventions to the public, a very uncapitalistic thing to do. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Nov 13 '17 at 15:27

The trick to flat-screen monitors is not in the technology to make them, but the technology to operate them. CRT monitors used an analog signal. This analog signal was used to generate a variable voltage, which produced the various shades of grey on the screen. Absolutely nothing digital about it. LCD screens are entirely digital. Any analog signal had to be converted to digital before it could be displayed.

So the question becomes one of digital vs analog technology. If you have digital technology, then creating an LCD is a minor extension. In fact, you would never even consider a CRT screen.

However, if you did not have digital technology to begin with, LCD screens would be particularly useless to you. You would need something like a variable beam technology to display the analog signal.

So first decide on your technology - digital or analog - and then follow suit with your monitor type.

But if you already have computers, you have your answer. Same technology goes into computers as goes into flat screens.

  • $\begingroup$ A 4-bit VGA digital-to-analog converter (an R2R ladder) needs less than $1 worth of resistors and 4 digital pins to get you 16 colours to play with $\endgroup$ – Samwise Nov 12 '17 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Samwise However, the point is: if you have digital, use digital. If you don't have digital, then digital is useless. You are not going to have a digital-to-analog converter if you do not have digital. You are not going to have an analog-to-digital converter if you do not have digital. If you have digital, you have the technology to easily do flat screen. If you do not have digital, you do not have the technology to do flat screen. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Nov 12 '17 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ IBM MDA, CGA and EGA were "digital" from the graphics card to the monitor, in the sense that they used discrete color channels and discrete intensity steps. (In the case of MDA, a single "color" channel.) VGA, when introduced in 1987 with the IBM PS/2, represented a major change from the status quo at the time on IBM PC compatibles by being analog from the graphics card to the monitor, and I believe it's fair to say that the fact that it was analog was what allowed it (or rather, has allowed it) to survive for so long. MDA/CGA/EGA graphics adapters were typically used with CRTs. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 27 '18 at 14:59

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