The Evolution of Monitor Designs: A Journey Through Time

By Isaac Oburu

Who can still remember the good old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors, in their beige and bulky glory? With new monitor innovations being launched on an almost monthly basis, it is fairly easy to forget how far we have come since the first displays were developed. Ever since, the monitor market has continuously developed and innovated its products to suit different customer needs and lifestyles better, be it by improving designs or with new display technologies, amongst others enabling sharper resolutions than ever before. But between 4K resolutions and curved displays, who can still remember how we got here?

Ground-breaking for its time: 4:3 CRT displays
If someone had been told to try a two-monitor set-up during the 1990s, one could have only hoped that this person had a stable and large desk. Up until the early 2000s, the most commonly used displays across offices and private homes used to be CRT displays, well known for their weighty and visually rather unspectacular appearance. To most people’s surprise, the first CRT display actually already dates back to 1897 and was developed by German physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun. Little did he know that his bulky invention would be the first milestone to a development that most recently cumulated in displays with a thickness of less than 1 cm, such as the AOC PDS241 with its 5.2 mm profile. Unlike these slim screens of today, CRT models could easily take up almost the entire desk space. The AOC CT720G, a CRT display launched in the 1990s, was for example 41.9 cm thick to accommodate the colour cathode ray tubes on its inside that used to generate the monitor image on a phosphorescent screen.

But thickness was not the only design aspect that set these monitors apart from modern displays. They also came in a 4:3 format and usually dressed in a rather unexciting beige chassis. And yet, while we may now look back at these bulky companions with a smile, CRT displays were able to dominate the monitor market up until the early 2000s. Only then LCD monitors became more affordable and popular within the mass market – and these displays made some great advances in their design.

A new era: LCD monitors
Although LCD monitors only became widely popular in the early millennium; the first LCD display already saw the light of the day in 1972. For a long time, LCD models were however very expensive to produce and purchase, leading to CRT models dominating the market for more than half a century. Over the years, the market nevertheless changed. Not only did energy standards become stricter, but people’s demands for better designs and new technologies also called for larger, thinner and more stylish models. Built from layers of filters, glass and liquid crystal, LCD displays did not require the same bulky cathode ray rubes anymore to function, enabling manufacturers to develop models to suit the growing market needs. Suddenly, it became possible to build displays with sharper images and lower energy rates than ever before. It was possible to experiment with new designs that did not only look good, but were also more ergonomically friendly for its users. First display position adjustments became more easily available, for example allowing users to tilt the monitor; a development that still significantly improves user experiences. With the vanishing of CRTs, whose cathode rays were long feared to emit small amounts of x-ray radiation, health concerns surrounding long-term uses of monitors further decreased.

In the mid-2000s, monitor designs had changed so drastically that the times of bulky CRTs seemed long forgotten. In 2008, AOC for example launched the Red Dot Design Award winner Angelo, a 16:9 LCD display with touch keys and a 3-way adjustable stand.

Other designs came and went, such as the iF Product Design Award winning AOC Razor with foldable stand for easy wall-mount, or the also iF Award winning AOC 57 series with its super narrow frame and detachable stand. Models like this did not only mark the beginning of today’s race for design and innovation, but also for increasing customisation.

The present: Wider, thinner, faster – displays for every lifestyle
How have monitor designs changed? As with so many products, customer needs and wishes have become more specific than ever before. Whether style-conscious office user, competitive gamer, professional graphic designer or casual home user – several niche markets have emerged requiring manufacturers to develop customised designs and technologies to cater to their needs and lifestyles. Contemporary monitor designs have to appeal visually and functionally to different customer groups, who often have completely different needs and wishes. While graphic designers likely look for superior image quality and ergonomic functions, modern professionals may appreciate stylish and functional monitors that allow them to not only work effectively but that also look good on the desk. As a result, innovative monitor designs such as the AOC PDS241 and the PDS271, conceptualised by the famous Studio F. A. Porsche, have become appealing for such users. Its unique modular build separating the I/O connections from the display allows for an extremely slim 5.2 mm profile, which is thinner than most recent smartphones. By running the power and display cable through the twisted asymmetrical stand, it offers a particularly clean and sleek look.

It is safe to say that contemporary monitors are thinner and faster while offering larger screen sizes. Due to the growing popularity of esports and competitive gaming, many users nowadays request displays that not only provide them with shorter response times and higher refresh rates, but also with designs that allow for an immersive gaming experience. Throughout the market, curved screens – which surprisingly already made their debut in the TV sector in 1952 – have become popular amongst gaming communities. With its 21:9 format, 2000 mm curvature, 4 ms response time, 200 Hz refresh rate and Adaptive-Sync support, the AOC AGON AG352QCX exemplifies this development. Ergonomic adjustment options have gone a long way as well. The CRT monitors of the past rarely went beyond basic swivel functions, whereas many of today’s displays can be tilted, rotated or adjusted in height. The AG352QCX for example lets gamers maintain a healthy posture while playing, thanks to its stand’s height, tilt, and swivel adjustment options.

Even in office settings, business monitors shouldn’t look bulky and boring anymore. That is why AOC for example is updating their Pro Line with “3-sided frameless” designs as well: The 90 series monitors let users focus entirely on the screen content and make multi-monitor setups with several displays next to each other much more seamless.

These are just a few examples of today’s computer displays no longer being basic office equipment, but appealing as well as customised devices that combine style and convenient functionality to suit the needs of continuously changing consumer lifestyles.

Overview: AOC products mentioned

AOC PDS241 & PDS271
16:9 IPS monitors in two sizes; the 24? PDS241 and the 27? PDS271, both with Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution and extra slim “3-sided borderless” design. The unique twisted asymmetrical stand hides the power and display cables inside, which are separated in an external modular box. With excellent picture quality, wide colour gamut, wide viewing angles and features such as Flicker-Free technology, the monitor meets the needs of style conscious home users and professionals alike.

Curved monitor with a 35? (21:9) VA panel, Wide Full HD resolution of 2560 × 1080 pixels, 4 ms response time, 200 Hz refresh rate and Adaptive-Sync support. With a radius of 2000 mm it is more curved than other conventional curved monitors, providing an outstandingly high level of immersion to gamers and multi-tasking users.

AOC I2490PXQU and I2790VQ : From the upcoming 90 series
24? and 27? monitors with elegant but simple “3-sided frameless” design in gunmetal finish, equipped with the latest IPS panels in Full HD resolution. Boasting multiple inputs and features such as Flicker-Free technology and Low Blue Light mode, the 90 series will be available this summer.