Back in the seventies and eighties, an important design choice for a desktop computer was whether to use a television or a dedicated monitor for display. A monitor could give better resolution; on the other hand, some people already had a television and could save money by reusing it.

Suppose the latter argument doesn't apply, and you assume customers will have to buy one or the other. Is there a big difference in manufacturing cost between a color monitor and a TV? Does the monitor save significantly by being free to implement an optimal design instead of complying with NTSC? Does the TV save significantly by being free to have poor resolution?


closed as off-topic by pipe, brhans, Bruce Abbott, Wesley Lee, Enric Blanco May 14 '17 at 14:20

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    \$\begingroup\$ It made a world of difference. Monitors had higher resolution, and were so much more expensive that monitors were in general smaller than TVs - a monitor the size of a typical TV would been far too expensive for home use. \$\endgroup\$ – JRE May 14 '17 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?” \$\endgroup\$ – pipe May 14 '17 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pipe Obviously it's no such thing; if you took the trouble to actually read the question, you would see it's asking about the historical fact of cost difference between two kinds of device that were actually manufactured in the time period in question. \$\endgroup\$ – rwallace May 14 '17 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another thing is, it wasn't that some people had a TV. It is more like "most people" had a TV. At least in the USA, and since you mention NTSC I assume you are talking about the US. \$\endgroup\$ – JRE May 14 '17 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JRE True, but not everyone wanted to locate their computer in the living room and contend for access to the family TV. Also there was the education market and in the case of early models of the Apple II, even the business market, contexts where there would not already be a TV per computer. \$\endgroup\$ – rwallace May 14 '17 at 14:09

The cost is all in the vacuum tube. Until ~1990, color vacuum tubes which could display 1024x768 had been so expensive they still made monocrome ones and sold them along X terminals (which had been expensive devices themselves.)

A TV CRT could display roughly 400x300 pixels, and it stayed this way till today, because the NTSC/PAL TV standard does not have more pixels anyway.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Salesmen would pitch their green screens as a big advantage over black and white. Then the amber screens came in briefly. \$\endgroup\$ – Rob May 14 '17 at 14:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem with bigger high-resolution vaccum cathode ray tubes is convergence. You simply cannot build them as flat as required for color TVs of the time and that's why they stayed a niche market for a long time. \$\endgroup\$ – Janka May 14 '17 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your math is off. NTSC DVDs have 480 lines of resolution. My 27" sony from '98 displayed 800X600 from an s-video connection, and you could easily see each discrete pixel. \$\endgroup\$ – dandavis May 14 '17 at 17:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's 480i. Interlace. And your Sony TV set is from 1998, not 1990. \$\endgroup\$ – Janka May 14 '17 at 22:08

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