Also known as monochromatic monitors, monochrome monitors are computer monitors that display a single color against a solid background. Used extensively during the middle to latter part of the 20th century, the monochrome monitor was at one time utilized with just about any type of computing system that included some sort of digital display. The first desktop computers developed in the latter part of the 1970s made use of this type of monitor. The monochrome monitor continued to be a staple in many office settings as late as the early 1990s, when it was finally eclipsed by the more feature-rich color monitor.
The effect of a monochrome monitor is somewhat like that of a black and white television set. The earliest designs called for a simple black background, with white text appearing on the screen. Some models reversed the process, using a white background to display black text. While somewhat plain, the use of a single phosphor to generate the single color in each pixel makes it possible for the monitor to provide a very clear and crisp looking display.
One of the drawbacks of the monochrome monitor is the potential for what is known as screen burn. This phenomenon is caused by the relatively high intensity generated by the single phosphor. When text is left displayed for long periods of time, it can actually leave an impression on the screen even after the user moves on to view other stored data. Because the pixels that make up the display on a color monitor are composed of multiple phosphors, the potential for screen burn with contemporary monitors is greatly reduced, especially with the use of automatic screen savers.
Over time, some variations in the monochrome monitor came into being, although the use of a single phosphor for the text display remained constant. For example, some manufacturers would offer monitors that would display black lettering on a light green background, or orange lettering on a black background. Later designs included equipment that would allow the user to adjust the brightness setting on the device, which could help enhance the visibility to some degree.
Since the 1990s, the monochrome monitor has been replaced with full color monitors that offer a wider range of color selections for text, image and graphics. Just about all desktop systems today make use of a color monitor. There are still some devices that make use of monochrome technology, such as cash registers with electronic display, and various other types of point-of-sale systems where there is no need for a lot of color or the display of detailed graphics.