Thursday, July 22, 2010

Future technologies, part 1

Device resolution-independent computer operating systems

In the past, we had CRT monitors which would allow us to fill a 15 inch monitor with an image, whether that image was based on a high resolution or a low resolution. If you desired the items on the screen to appear larger, you needed only to reduce the resolution selected for the interface and they would scale to fill the entire space available. This did not result in fuzzy images, in fact it usually sharpened the images to do so. When we started using LCD displays for computers things changed. These panels have a fixed, native resolution. That means they only look sharp at that one particular resolution. If you change it to something else, you get a blurry image, and that can sometimes defeat the purpose of changing the resolution to make things bigger. Resolution independence will be a huge advantage for older people and others who have trouble seeing text at normal sizes. Rather than "dumbing-down" the resolution to make things appear bigger, the way they do today, I imagine a future where the operating system's selected resolution is always set to the native resolution of the connected display. Imagine an operating system which can scale its interface up or down in size smoothly while keeping the resolution unchanged. There may even be a slider or a virtual knob of some kind to dial in the precise factor of magnification desired. I presume that the size of text at 12 point font will be the basis of the factoring system used. We are already seeing some devices with extremely high resolutions. Apple's iPhone 4 features the retina display. It's a screen with a resolution of over 320 pixels per inch. Imagine that kind of resolution on a 22 inch widescreen monitor. That would mean a resolution of around 5480x3424 If you rendered current operating systems at that resolution on a 22 inch widescreen display, things would appear about 3.26 times smaller than they are now. Clearly, the answer for this is resolution independence. There is evidence of this already on the iPhone 4.