What Is a Vector Monitor?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2019
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A vector monitor is a type of computer monitor — and sometimes video game screen — that uses a laser to refresh the monitor’s image several times a second. Even though a vector monitor is not considered as advanced as modern liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors, this monitor typically is not affected by pixelization. This is because only outlines are displayed, so all the images are converted into vectors. It was difficult to make multicolored lasers when this monitor was first used, so this monitor normally displayed just one color.

In early monitors, the image on the screen was the result of a laser constantly beaming an image onto the screen’s glass. With a vector monitor, this laser would go over the screen several times a second to ensure the image would not disappear. The laser was constantly working because, if it skipped a transmission phase, the screen’s image would begin to fade and vanish. The laser moved so quickly that most people would not see any fading before the image was recharged.

Modern computers, despite having better resolutions and more vivid colors, can suffer from pixelization if the image on the screen is a low-resolution image. While a vector monitor did not have many of the capabilities of more modern monitors, one advantage it had was that it was unaffected by this problem. All the images that appeared on the screen would be very crisp, even though the images were commonly simple shapes such as circles or triangles.


A vector monitor was not affected by pixelization, because the laser converted all the images into vectors. A vector’s points are saved instead of its pixels, so the monitor would have an easier time displaying a vector image without there being any blurriness or other display problems. At the same time, this monitor could only display and remember points, so the display abilities were weaker than more modern monitors, because most vectors cannot be advanced shapes.

Later versions of the vector monitor were able to display two or more colors at once, but the majority of these monitors could only display one color. This is because of the state of laser technology when this monitor was popular. It initially was difficult to make a laser with more than one color that did not cancel itself out during transmission. Even when more than one color was possible, this was not because of the laser but because of the use of phosphor layers — each of which displayed a different color — in the monitor.


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