Tangerine Fusion

Farewell CRT

- 2001.05.09

Apple has been making CRT monitors since the late 1970s. Their last model, the Apple 17" Studio Display with ADC ended the line of perennially pricey displays with a myriad of off-the-wall features and ever-changing proprietary connectors. Yet there probably hasn't been one model that somebody doesn't love.

Apple's last CRT (tube-type) display was officially discontinued a few days ago with no imminent replacement. It was the ultimate over-engineered, over-incompatible, over-priced CRT display. It packed many groundbreaking features into a $499 package (in a time when you can easily get a basic 17" inch CRT for well under $200.):

  • Astronomically high redraw rates to 153 times a second, eliminating "flicker" and improving video and game performance.
  • Theater Mode, which beefs up the brightness so the picture is as bright as a TV screen for full-screen DVD movies, iMovies, and QuickTime movies.
  • A brand new proprietary monitor connector. Called the Apple Display Connector, or ADC, it lumped the monitor signal, USB, and (like NeXT computers) monitor power into a single connector.
  • Auto-DCC. Short for Automatic Digital Color Calibration, this automatically adjusts individual colors in the monitor to keep them from fading with the age of the monitor - great for Photoshop work. Unlike Apple's previous 21" CRT that introduced this feature, this didn't need an open USB port to work. This is courtesy of the built-in USB in the ADC connector.
  • Built-in USB hub. While this is not a dramatic feature, as many other monitors have them, it deserves brownie points in the 17" CRT for being the only CRT available that doesn't take up an existing USB port on the computer. Again courtesy of ADC.
  • RF-shielding plastic. Like the slot-loading iMacs, the transparent plastic case was formulated to provide radiation shielding without needing aluminum panels inside, allowing you to see the guts of the monitor all the time. This was Apple's only external monitor designed this way.
  • A vertically/horizontally flat screen. A first in a lower-end monitors, this keeps images displayed on it distortion free (straight lines straight, round lines round, etc.).

The ADC, however, alienated the 17 incher from all older Macs. At this writing, there is still no shipping adapter that lets you use the monitor with anything other than the ADC port, which only late-model G4s and Cubes have. According to Apple's financial reports, the 17" monitor sold very poorly, most likely due to that limitation. The fact that so few people chose to buy or even consider Apple's last CRT monitor means that not many are aware of all the amazing technology culminated in the 25-odd years of Apple designing them.

I'll miss the CRT, and at the same time I look forward to new developments as Apple completes the transition over to the more modern, environmentally friendly flat-panel displays. Here's to the future Apple Cinema Display, complete with multi-rez picture-in-picture and a titanium wall-mount!

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