graphics on monitor

Pictures rule

a picture is worth a lot more than a thousand words


I want pictures

DTP (DeskTop Publishing) was the next step in personal computing, and it meant that people liked being able to write letters, recipes, assignments, ransom notes, whatever, using the computer and printer, but how about real pictures?

Some people became very good at using keyboard letters and squiggles in different positions on the page so it printed out with a teddy bear, say, made of 8s.

But to run a drawing or painting program, to make a picture, or to copy pictures onto your computer so you could paste one in when you liked (clip art) required more computer memory.

Pictures on your TV screen or on your computer are made up of thousands of tiny dots (pixels) in different colours.

Increasingly, people wanted 'better resolution', meaning the pictures had to have more but smaller dots and looked less blocky.

The more dots, then the more memory and processing power needed to handle them.


printing pictures

Then people wanted printers able to print out the picture as well as it looked on the colour computer screen.

The 'old' dot-matrix printer can't make the dots that small, so inkjet printers were developed.

Unless you have thousands of dollars for a colour laser printer, a top inkjet printer (1440 x 1440 dpi, dots per inch, across and down the page) is the best you will get.

In fact, at that resolution they now squirt the ink in dots so small that the smooth-feeling photocopy paper is too rough to show the difference.

To get the true 'photo quality' from a top inkjet printer, you have to use special (and you guessed it, more expensive) printing paper.


space invaders

Pictures, with all those dots, all that information to remember, did take up a lot of space on a computer.

Computer games used more and more pictures.

Internal hard disk drives (HDD) were developed, and then became even bigger to store more and more pictures and other information.

Computers needed more RAM (Random Access Memory) to handle, bring out, use and put back, pictures and other big files, especially as game-makers tried to 'animate' the pictures, make them look like they were moving.

[see glossary (part 2): information storage]
The animation was clunky, but each simple movement used a stack of different pictures.


make it look better

Clip art and game art was cute. Even cuter in colour.
But it wasn't photo quality.

Photographs were way too big to fit on floppy disks (maximum 1.4 Mb, megabytes), and high-quality or video animation used incredible amounts of space, and of course, RAM to handle these 'better looking' things.

Hard disks were still being made to hold more (although they shrank on the outside).

It's a bit like storage space or bookshelves at home, really.

If you need the space, you make it, and once you have it, you fill it up and need more.

5 Gb (5 gigabyte, 5000 Mb) HDDs are now common, but it depends on what you do with your computer, how much space you will need.


show me more pictures

As I said, pictures take the time and space on computers.

You can buy a scanner, black-and-white or colour, if you like, to 'photograph' your own pictures and put them on your computer, so you can use them to make things.

Generally, though, you will get better quality by taking them in to a local printer, who has spent serious money on his or her scanner.

Scanners were a fad for a while, but unless you want to scan pictures or documents often, not worth your while IMHO (In My Humble Opinion).

So how to give the people all those colour photos and moving pictures, even video, that they want in games and information?

The CD-ROM (Compact Disc - Read Only Memory) Drive was developed.

A standard computer CD-ROM can hold over 600Mb of information, and they cost very little to produce (as little as 5c each to stamp out, I believe).

The information has been burned permanently into the mould of the CD-presser by a laser

(Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Electrons,
read 'amazingly narrow and accurate beam of light')
so the bumps and hollows which make up the pattern for the computer to read with the CD-ROM drive's own laser can be very fine, meaning there can be lots of them.
The CD is coated and much tougher than a floppy disk.


so how do you make an informed decision?

next article: Keeping up without losing out

back to 'Look Here First'

made with a Macintosh