Re: Monitor Colors and Resolution

Subject: Re: Monitor Colors and Resolution
From: Matt Ion <soundy -at- ROGERS -dot- WAVE -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 19:27:23 -0800

On Sat, 16 Aug 1997 10:39:23 -0400, George F. Hayhoe wrote:

>I think we who are lucky enough to work with state-of-the-art
>equipment sometimes have unrealistic expectations. There are
>still an awful lot of users out there with 16-color VGA boards
>driving their monitors. True, the number is gradually decreasing
>as older office and home machines are upgraded, but the 16-color
>monitor (like the 14.4 or slower modem) is likely to be a fact
>of life for some of our users for a while yet.

It's not even "old" hardware that's challenged. Often, users may be
stuck with new, glitzy hardware that isn't properly supported by their
operating system (or more appropriately, hardware whose manufacturer has
chosen not to support certain operating systems), or that requires
special steps to install.

Often, new high-end hardware that's released after the latest version of
an OS will be tweaked in a such a way that is not supported by the
bundled OS drivers. Without going through extra, sometimes excessive
steps to install those drivers, that hardware won't work, or in the case
of display adapters, will default to the lowest common denominator:
640x480 at 16 colors, aka plain VGA. Yes, I've even seen instances of
this with marvelous, hardware-detecting, user-fiendly[sic] Windows 95.

>The 256-color image map that you labored over may display as an
>almost incomprehensible mass on a 16-color display unless you've
>chosen colors carefully with your hardware-challenged users in

For that matter, they may not display properly on other 256-color setups,
either, since these generally work with an actual palette of several
thousand colors (8k? 16k? 32k? I don't remember offhand), but displays
only 256 of them at a time. It depends on how the individual system
handles palette management. Both Netscape and WebExplorer have a
"Palette Aware" setting in their OS/2 flavors (IIRC, the W95 version of
Netscape does as well) that will shift the color palette appropriately if
it does not already match the browser's color scheme. If this option is
not enabled, or not supported by other browsers, colors may look screwy
as well. Another case where being 16-color sensitive can be beneficial
to the end user.

>I'm not saying we should make all design decisions based on the
>least common hardware denominator, just that we should make
>those decisions with an awareness of their effect on parts of
>our user population.

Or to reiterate one of the most important of our tenets, "Know thy target

Your friend and mine,
<insert standard disclaimer here>

Of my friend, I can only say this:
Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels,
His was the most... human.
- Adm. James T. Kirk
Spock's Eulogy, Stardate 8141.6

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