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What the Death of CRT Display Means For Classic Arcade Machines ( 184

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report:The cathode-ray-tube technology that powered the monitors for nearly every classic arcade game in the twentieth century is defunct. Sony, Samsung, and others have left it behind for skinnier and more lucrative LCDs and plasmas, and the CRTs that are left are about to sell out. The current stock of new 29-inch CRT monitors is dwindling. Online arcade cabinet and parts supplier Dream Arcades has fewer than 30 of those large displays sitting on its shelves. When it sells out of the current inventory, it will never get another shipment in that size again. "We've secured enough [of the other sizes] to get us all the way through next year," says Michael Ware, founder of Dream Arcades. "After that, that's it." The future of arcade-cabinet restoration is looking bleak. "The old arcade games are like aging people," says Walter Day, founder of high-score-keeping site Twin Galaxies. "They have old livers and aging kidneys. There will come a day when very few arcade cabinets have original components. Time will wear them out." To be clear, it's not that games like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man will suddenly become unplayable. The games can run on newer LCD screens, but they may not look as the developers intended.
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What the Death of CRT Display Means For Classic Arcade Machines

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  • This is somewhat orthogonal to the topic, but the CRT was a requisite for the home user to play light gun games on systems like the NES. However in the arcade we still see new installments of Time Crisis and others, and they are even done on wide screen monitors. This suggests to me that they have moved to LCDs, but I can't find good information on how they work if they did. Anyone know the answer?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      NES lightgun just inserted a totally a black frame with white shapes where the target was and the gun sensed the light. At 50/60 Hz it was fast enough to not see it.

      • That's how Duck Hunt worked.

        But other games like Operation Wolf seemed to work on an entirely different principle. There was no flashing/white boxes like Duck Hunt, and (more significantly) you could shoot anywhere on the screen and see your bullet have an effect (even if you missed).

        See for yourself: []

        • Another game using the same principle as Operation Wolf is ZapPing, an air hockey simulator that's part of a Zapper test ROM called Zap Ruder. People who've played it say it feels as smooth as using a Wii Remote. Video []

        • But other games like Operation Wolf seemed to work on an entirely different principle.

          The principle is the same, just the method by which they got to the answer was different.

          For Duck Hunt the only thing of interest was if a duck was hit or if it was not. To do this every trigger pull caused a few frames to be rendered. Firstly a black frame for calibration, then a frame with a white box over one duck, then a frame with a white box over the second duck, etc. By timing which frame you were on you knew which duck got hit.

          Operation Wolf on a trigger would draw a black frame, followed by a white

      • The NES lightgun STILL NEEDS A CRT to work because the display lag of LCD screens throws off the timing. Most people forget that even a 16.7 millisecond delay introduced by the LCD screen is enough for the screen output to be off by an entire NTSC frame, compared to the practically instant appearance of the frame on the screen that the NES assumes from a CRT. And I am talking about total delay here, from input to photons, not panel response time. Google "Best low-lag HDTVs for serious gamers - CNET" to see
    • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:08PM (#53985387)

      If they're using an LCD screen, the lightgun games work the same way as a WiiMote, basically. Just more accurate. There were a few "lightgun" games on the Wii, and that setup worked well enough.

      If the game uses a gun that is permanently mounted to the machine, then obviuosly the gun is really just a big joystick, and the screen used doesn't matter.

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      At least the sega arcade games have an array of IR transmitters around the screen, and the gun is actually a detector. That is true even for the older games with a CRT or CRT-based projector (House of the Dead, Maze of kings etc).

    • by GoRK ( 10018 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:22PM (#53985489) Homepage Journal

      They just use some other means of referencing position such as IR LEDs + camera (like a wiimote or in reverse), image capture/analysis, gun position sensing, or some combination of these things. Most use IR LEDs. Some older technologies such as the NES Power Glove used ultrasonic positioning.

      A lot of the 2000's era arcade gun games such as Time Crisis 4 used DLP projectors from the get-go and were using these types of gun controllers from the start; so they are relatively easy to convert to LCD.

      Classic CRT based light gun games -- while I'm sure it's possible to build some sort of device that emulates the original gun in hardware, it is probably a much easier job to simply run them in an emulator.

      One saving grace to this article is that while it's true that the CRT business might be winding down, the tubes themselves do usually last far longer than the electronics and will be around for a very long time still. I have had to replace some components on my Wells Gardner CRT that I used in my scratch-built cabinet because it had gotten very dim, but after a new neck board and some new capacitors it's back to looking like new.

      • A little more info. If you're looking at building your own arcade cabinet with light guns, then ultimarc has the Aimtrak []. I picked up a couple guns and the IR sensor bar for my cabinet, basically it's just like the WII with an IR sensor bar mounted either above or below the screen, and each gun appears as a mouse to the computer. The actually work pretty well for games like Area 51.

        Note that is for the "free-standing" guns that are tethered with a cable. Games like RevolutionX and Terminator 2 have hard-mou

    • Virtual Reality will take over that space with motion tracked guns. I play Duck Hunt in VR all the time.
    • A CRT is not required, if you go to Chuck E Cheese or a movie theater arcade you can see that, you just need to calibrate for latency. A NES with duck hunt can work through an XRGB3 and low latency LCD monitor because it gets close enough to the 16ms response time expected by the game code.

      Common TVs and upscalers have too much latency and also don't handle NTSC line doubling mode properly which leads to another display issue that could confuse the Zapper sensor.

      The SNES Super Scope used an IR sensor and wo

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:07PM (#53985373)

    I'm not terribly troubled by it. My MAME cabinet has an LED screen in it, which means lower power requirements, a sharper image, and no real worry that the main screen will burn in.

    If the retro community is big enough, somebody will produce a 4:3 aspect ratio, slightly convex LED with a thick glass cover - and perhaps even an onboard function that can simulate burn in.

    It still won't be the same, of course, but neither are the guts of most arcade systems anyway.

    • I feel the same way. I have a MAME cabinet running with an old 21" monitor (78+ pounds) which at the time was great. Now it just feels antiquated and like more of a hassle to deal with when I want to move the cabinet around. I'm sure I'm not a purist enough, and this is more about original cabinets. If I had a original game, I can see being disappointed that it may be hard/impossible to get original-stye replacement parts.
    • There are actually plenty of screens out there, just look on eBay or at your local charity shop. The problem is that arcade monitors are a bit special, typically more adjustable than a standard TV and accepting different signal levels. I expect we will start to see more and more conversion kits and signal conditioners to cope with this as supply dries up.

      A lot of supposedly dead CRTs could be fixed, if people knew how or if it made economic sense. Sounds like the point at which spending a few hundred bucks to repair a screen is almost here. It's like with VCRs - they were so cheap you might as well chuck a broken one and replace it, but now you can't buy them new and second hand ones are a crap shoot people are willing to spend money maintaining good ones.

      • A lot of supposedly dead CRTs could be fixed, if people knew how or if it made economic sense. Sounds like the point at which spending a few hundred bucks to repair a screen is almost here.

        As long as the tube still holds a vacuum it should be relatively simple to repair. In my experience, it's usually the electronics that steer the beam that go out. A transistor that's used to control the field strength overheats. A buddy of mine fixed one for just a few bucks.

        • by johanw ( 1001493 )

          I remember going with a (back then in the 1990's) 20 year old TV to a retired repairman: image was compressed to a single line. He started with re-soldering a lot of connections, "because they age". Thing worked OK afterward, and is still functional (if only I didn't dump my TV subscription in the internet age).

          Anyway, new work for types like Rick Dale http://www.ricksrestorations.c... []

    • by mccalli ( 323026 )
      The sharper image is the problem. You need a multisync that can go down to a resolution as low as 128x128 without issues, at half the rates of VGA (15Khz). The Hantarex repair page [] gives a small insight into the kind of specs required.

      My own MAME machine has a 20" (I think) Hantarex being driven by a 1st gen ArcadeVGA - really old nVidea that has a custom BIOS flashed to guarantee 15Khz scan rates. It is superb. Without this, you're relying on software scaling to try and smooth things out, and it's reall
    • For terminals rather than arbitrary images: cool-retro-term [].

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Most of the time, when the "display" is bad, it's actually the driving electronics that are bad. Remember, CRT displays are pure analog devices - full of things that drift and die over time (i.e., electrolytic capacitors).

      The only thing not being made anymore are the CRT tubes themselves, which only consist of the screen and electron gun. The deflection coils are electromagnets mounted outside the tube. So as long as the electron gun works, the actual tube part is working. The rest of the electronics drivin

      • >Most of the time, when the "display" is bad, it's actually the driving electronics that are bad.

        With CRTs use for steady or repetitive images, burn in is a serious issue. And if the phosphor coating can be degraded in specific places (I'm not up on the physics/chemistry, but presumably the electron gun isn't running out of electrons...), it's going to be degrading to a lesser extent in general.

        If you ever used a classic arcade system back in the day, you'd know even when they were relatively new the sc

      • The only thing that "wears out" on a CRT is the phosphate coating on the screen, not the electron gun or the deflection coils. The phosphate coating could be refreshed, but it's an expensive and probably risky procedure.
      • The only thing not being made anymore are the CRT tubes themselves, which only consist of the screen and electron gun. The deflection coils are electromagnets mounted outside the tube. So as long as the electron gun works, the actual tube part is working. The rest of the electronics driving it are just electronics that can be fixed.

        Yup! If you turn on a monitor and all you see is a dot in the center of the screen, both steering fields are broken. If you see a horizontal line, the vertical steering field has broken. If all you see is a vertical line, the horizontal steering field is broken. In most cases it's actually the electronics that drive the fields that have failed. All of which should have parts that are easy to find.

        One of my college physics lab assignments was to use electric and magnetic fields to steer the beam of a

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          One of my college physics lab assignments was to use electric and magnetic fields to steer the beam of a cathode ray tube. It was surprisingly fun!

          One of my physics classmates set up one of these, hooked it up to a stereo, and let it dance to the music. This was before I'd seen any other audio visualizers, so it seemed pretty neat to me.

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        CRT tubes

        Cathode ray tube tubes, bwahaha. Automated teller machine machine[*]. Personal identification number number. Global positioning system system. Graphical user interface interface.

        [*] BTW, isn't ATM already redundant? How could there be an automated teller that is not a "machine"?

        • by Trogre ( 513942 )

          You forgot to never expand acronyms inline, or this kind of silly shit happens..

          Except for Oracle, of course.

    • I suspect it's more a problem for vector display arcade games (e.g. Asteroids, Battlezone, Star Wars). A raster display (picture is drawn with horizontal scan lines slowly moving down the screen) translates over to a LCD matrix screen fairly well. But in a vector display, the electron beam can move in arbitrary directions, resulting in perfectly sharp diagonal lines. When you try to translate that to a LCD matrix screen, you end up with jagged diagonals.
      • You'd be surprised how well they can emulate this, though. I was pleasantly surprised at what Asteroids looks like on the MAME cabinet I built using a 2560x1600 LCD. I mean it's clearly NOT as good as the original and I think some of the line trace is a bit overdone (they even brighten the eds of lines, simulating the extra electrons accumulating as the beam is slowed and deflected to the next vector), but it's very, very playable.

    • You can replace the monitor in most cabinets with a 21" LCD for about $100. If the main board dies, you can emulate the game on mame using a raspberry pi. This means that you can remove the HUGE and very inefficient power supply, and replace it with a small 5v switcher. The game will run, it will last longer, it will consume less power, and it will weigh less. Wins all around!
  • by ctilsie242 ( 4841247 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:07PM (#53985379)

    I was reading that someone made a translator that could take the VGA signal from games made for CRTs, and "convert" it to display accurately on LCD monitors, where the fringing aspect (as in Apple ][s) was accurately simulated. Perhaps this might be the way to go.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:11PM (#53985413) Homepage Journal

    I don't take this problem seriously for most machines, because they can use software filters and high resolution displays to emulate the look pretty closely. But vector games will require crazy high-resolution displays to get the same effect, and those aren't cheap. I wonder if you could just bounce a laser (or simply a highly focused light) off a MEMS mirror or something. Or maybe you'd use multiples?

    I've thought about building an upright arcade machine with a good-sized pivot LCD, I've got two 25.5" and I use one on my PC and the other one is sitting around. To me, using a LCD is a massive feature because I can build the machine shallower.

    • Yeah. The last time I saw an old asteroids cabinet, I was spellbound. The vector graphics were crisp and had smooth diagonal lines, and the bullets were awesomely bright with an ethereal glow that you see on old oscilloscopes. I don't think you can get that kind of brightness with an LCD.

      • you can with a plasma though...

      • I don't know...the Atari Flashbacks Volume 2 on PS4 has Asteroids and it gets DAMN close to the arcade edition, even down to emulating the glow. It comes closer to the right look than any other version I've seen.

    • I wonder if you could just bounce a laser (or simply a highly focused light) off a MEMS mirror or something. Or maybe you'd use multiples?

      Such lasers are popular in nightclubs.
      There are a few hacker who have adapted them to mame (google "openlase")

      The main problem is that CRT Vector display have some persistance (the phosphores don't imediately turn black) and the image looks stable, whereas the laser make the image "blink" (unless you find a way to bump up the refresh rate)

      • The main problem is that CRT Vector display have some persistance (the phosphores don't imediately turn black) and the image looks stable, whereas the laser make the image "blink" (unless you find a way to bump up the refresh rate)

        Couldn't you make a phosphorescent front projection screen?

    • Vector games did not have very high resolution, and did not draw pure 'analog' vectors. Go take a look at the schematic for Asteroids.... There is a pair of line drawing state machines that steer the X-Y position of the beam at a resolution of 1024. Technically, +- 512 because the DAC output is run through a buffer Amp that takes the output of the DAC and centers it around zero. The input to the DAC is treated as a 10-bit signed integer. There is a bit more magic upstream to generate the clock pulse c

  • The games can run on newer LCD screens, but they may not look as the developers intended.

    I have an arcade cabinet with an LCD screen. I'm quite happy with how it looks, intentions be damned. I had the option to get one with a similar number of games (mine has ~140 classic games) but with a CRT display.

    The LCD screen is much bigger, and while the game graphics are in the same resolution, the out-of-game graphics resolution is much nicer and the software makes use of it. Also, when looking at CRTs now, I don't get nostalgia any more. They just seem old.

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:18PM (#53985469) Journal

    And I even had a whole bunch of the arcade machines in my home (my parents weren't terribly happy about that, they saw it as gambling machines), but nonetheless they where a lot fun to mess around with, I used so called "gender changer" plugins to change PCBs from various manufacturers to work with my arcade cabines, oh the fun times!

    That aside - I don't find the LCD panels so terrible as a replacement. I've just recently built my first own Arcade machine ever (it's mame based of course), but I built it out of the blue, no blueprints - just on the memories from the arcade halls, and it turned out fantastic. In fact, it is so good - that I don't really miss the blurry scan-lines and out of focus convergence RGB issues the old CRTs back then had.

    And, I've buried the LCD deep into the arcade so I can't really spot the difference, it's not easy to see there's not a "curved" crt inside there, and it looks amazing. I instantly felt the nostalgia when I fired it up.

  • Unless it is the actual glass itself, and not the supporting electronics, then rebuilding them could continue to ensure availability. It may, however, simply not be cost effective to rebuild them , especially if a LED display offers an essentially drop in replacement at a much lower cost. Cognoscenti may decry the loss of originality but arcade owners looking to make a profit won't care; especially as users adapt to the new displays or grow up with them never seeing the original. A collector might pay to ge

    • , and the last one in Europe followed them in 2013.

      With the death of CRT manufacturing, the supply chain for the exotic materials and supplies needed for rebuilding has subsequently dried up.

      The Early Television Museum in Ohio has rescued some equipment from the last rebuilders, and is hoping to bring back at least a bare bones rebuilding capability, aimed initially at vintage TV collectors.

  • What should of been done ages ago. The amount of space those CRTs took up versus modern flat panels is huge. So there should be a way to take a basic CRT monitor input, create a small device that will receive said signal and convert it to a modern HDMI output. Heck, they can probably even upscale so that while still 8-bit graphics, they will be displayed on a high res screen. This should be the norm.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      Those kinds of things already exist.

      This is a PC-focused one: []

      But pretty much anything that can analyse a board signal will be able to do it. Hell, you could do it with an FGPA, a software modules for a software-defined radio, or all kinds of other things.

      There's a reason that analogue TV cards exist and work - they do exactly that job. You're just talking about one that can handle odd / non-standard screen sizes, refresh rates, etc.

      And if you haven't seen some of the SDR de

  • Progress/ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:28PM (#53985539) Homepage

    I imagine pretty much the same as the death of AM/FM radio for old wireless sets, or the death of leaded petrol for old cars.

    They won't work the same, will require conversion, you'll have to keep a stock of old parts, or forever stay as an historical artifact that "doesn't work because we don't use those for that any more".

    There's nothing a decent LCD can't replicate, and only the purists care. Those people who want to remember the game will load up an emulator, which is probably infinitely more convenient to use and have in the house nowadays than a huge great expensive cabinet with parts you can't replace any more.

    Things move on. At least you *can* emulate the old games still. I'm all for emulation / preservation projects. But unless someone bothers to keep making CRTs in a variety of different sizes in an affordable manner, they've gone the way of the dodo - like Kodachrome film and Polaroid snaps.

    The only loss might be to lightgun games that use certain technologies but, to be honest, pretty much those kinds of input can be emulated in much more convenient ways too.

    • by jwdb ( 526327 )

      There's nothing a decent LCD can't replicate, and only the purists care.

      Actually, there's at least *one* thing: true vector graphics. There's a few games out there - Asteroids comes to mind - where the game ran the CRT like a line plotter rather than like a raster printer, such that you ended up with very sharp perfectly antialiased line art. You'd need a high-DPI LCD to even approximate this.

  • ... but I thought I just read an article a week or two ago about a huge electronics recycler who it turns out wasn't really doing much recycling of old CRTs after all. They had warehouses chock full of old televisions and computer CRTs.

    I can see where maybe a 29" CRT is an odd size that's difficult to source. But I would think you could reuse a working CRT tube out of a television or monitor for a game cabinet in many cases?

  • Bad TV Adjust Box? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:38PM (#53985607) Journal

    Stella's (2600 emulator), implementation of 'Bad TV' adjusts is just amazing. It simply wasn't the same playing 2600 games with perfectly clear graphics. In fact, some of those old games COUNTED on a little bleed and fuzziness! I have mine set for RF with a little bit of drift - just like the old days with my uncle's G.E. 25" lightning-struck set.

    If you haven't seen the 'Bad TV Adjust' feature on Stella, it's worth a look - and that got me thinking (always dangerous!)...

    What if you could construct a box that would take an RGB-based analog signal, run it through the same formulas that Stella borrowed, and then output that to an LCD or OLED? That way, you could get all the scanlines and composite NTSC color drift you wanted... If it didn't delay things too much, that is.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Can this emulate a loss of horizontal sync? I miss the old days of watching scrambled porn.

    • by FyRE666 ( 263011 )

      You can actually create scanlines, focus, tear blur effects etc with pixel shaders with no CPU overhead. It wouldn't be that difficult to take the framebuffer from MAME and use it as a texture to a shader to get any kind of distortion needed really. You could even make it appear as though the game is playing on a curved display.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:39PM (#53985615) Journal

    CRT renderings of the games was not how the designers wanted them to look, just as musical artists and engineers don't want to sound like a vinyl record. They wanted them to look like modern 4k, photorealistic games but were held back by the technology. No, what will be gone is the experience of the fuzzy-edged, low resolution games people remember playing as children. What we're losing is nostalgia, not veracity or design intent.

    • I agree (mostly). However, they did count on it for dithering colors with the bleed and smoothing jagged lines.

      I certainly prefer SNES graphics with nearest-neighbor scaling to hq2x and the like. There are too many errors in the added details and it's way more of a distraction than jaggies. It's worse than the 120Hz motion interpolation that was a big deal in last generation's TVs. I don't want all the downside of CRT - fuzzy edges, distortion, scanlines, etc. Back when I had a TV like that, I wanted b

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @01:10PM (#53985825) Homepage Journal

      Well, kinda. Yes, the original authors probably wanted higher quality graphics, but they designed for hardware that couldn't show those graphics, and they made use of the features of the technology available to them, some of which aren't replicated in the 'better' replacements.

      To put it another way, had better technology been available, they wouldn't have made the same design decisions, because design decisions intended to make something like awesome on a CRT can make things look worse on a better screen. Color bleed and interlacing would be two examples of things you make use of, that would make a game seem better on a CRT than not using them, but would make a game look awful if the technology is used on an LCD.

      • CRT renderings of the games was not how the designers wanted them to look, just as musical artists and engineers don't want to sound like a vinyl record. They wanted them to look like modern 4k, photorealistic games but were held back by the technology. No, what will be gone is the experience of the fuzzy-edged, low resolution games people remember playing as children. What we're losing is nostalgia, not veracity or design intent.

        Well, kinda. Yes, the original authors probably wanted higher quality graphics

    • CRT renderings of the games was not how the designers wanted them to look, just as musical artists and engineers don't want to sound like a vinyl record. They wanted them to look like modern 4k, photorealistic games but were held back by the technology.

      A truly talented artist tells his or her story despite the limitations of the medium. Without an understanding of those limitations, an observer does not fully appreciate the talent of the artist.

      Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon could have sounded completely different if it were recorded with modern synthesizers. However, they didn't have them, and therefore had to improvise. This ingenuity makes the work even greater.

      Monet had failing vision, Beethoven failing hearing, and these game designers had

    • by mib ( 132909 )

      George Lucas? Is that you?

  • but they may not look as the developers intended.

    Now we know. Msmash is a time traveling mind reader. Knows what the original Donkey Kong developer intended!

    Did it occur to people that this crisper better images is probably what the developers intended to create, but unable to deliver? Yes, it is different from what I saw back in 1980. But to think the developers intentionally went out to create exactly that image, is a stretch.

    • You're saying the developers intended it to look great on a technology not available to them, rather than optimized for the technology they had?

      As a developer, I can tell you that's not how we work. We always primarily try to make sure it works well on the target platform. If that means making decisions that work against some futuristic optimal model of how things should be, then so be it.

  • by BUL2294 ( 1081735 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:44PM (#53985643)
    I call bullshit. Sounds like "Dream Arcades" is trying to find out creative ways to announce that they will jack up their refurbishment prices--and their profit margins...

    1) An Indian manufacturer named "Videocon" still manufactures CRTs. So, while it's not Sony or some other high-quality manufacturer, they are still making them. In fact, as of a year ago, they were accepting leaded CRT glass for recycling into new CRT TVs. []
    2) There's a warehouse in Columbus, OH, which will likely become an EPA superfund site, that was run by an electronics recycler called Closed Loop--which went bankrupt. It's full of old CRTs that I can imagine could be reused with some minor disassembly & testing. []
  • There is hope (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Oasiz ( 1017554 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @12:51PM (#53985687) Homepage

    This is a big issue with demanding gamers like those in the speedrunning community, a traditional (15KHz) CRT is a must for low latency.
    The concern for CRT loss was valid, however things are finally starting to look a bit better..

    I'll guess I will go a bit technical since I work with & troubleshoot "old system video stuff" quite often..

    What old consoles / arcade games pretty much always used was RGB input, which was virtually artifact free. Although with consoles you usually had to resort to composite/RF/svideo, RGB being more common only in EU/JP regions. NTSC/PAL artifacts also can still be included easily with an otherwise superior image, but I won't get in to that here..

    Biggest issue with flatscreens has always been that they only handle native resolution, anything else than native has to be scaled to be that specific resolution, resulting in blur and loss of image quality.
    What's even worse, older systems and games sort of hacked around the typical broadcast standards where it kept transmitting one field instead of alternating between odd/even, this gave you a stable picture of 60fps (Closer to 59.94Hz in reality) with the expense of dark lines on every other scanline and only 240 lines of vertical resolution. "Stretching" of the image happened naturally as the lines for both fields would go from top to bottom, resulting in a crisp image that was rather flicker free.
    Unfortunately almost no scaler that has been built actually respects this hack, hardwired to expect both fields, which is a 480 line image. While this works for TV broadcasts and looks quite good with such, it has very varying results with older systems as the flat panel will attempt to treat this low resolution image as something that's supposed to be higher resolution, resulting in awful scaling artifacts or the whole picture jumping/flickering.
    However there are thankfully scalers out there that do, like the micomsoft xrgb series or a pure linedoubler like the earlier xrgb or ther more recent ossc.
    With these, you can get pretty darn accurate results and can even simulate scanlines.

    While CRTs look cool, they're not all so cool to work with.. they can get dark/blurry/get color offset even after a couple years of active use on some cabs. Not saying they all do but rarely do I see a crisp image on an arcade cab crt these days. Flat panels do have their own issues but I guess what I want to say here is that It is indeed getting harder and harder to find replacements for a reasonable price, unlike flatscreens where an older 1600x1200 panel from 10 years ago can be perfect.

    Now I hate to sound like an advertisement but I highly recommend checking out the OSSC, It's a no compromise solution that does pure linedoubling, very good digitizing that keeps colors intact (along with noise filtering) and allows you to keep the original refresh rate intact, all combined are something that no scaler does. Personal results with flat panels and say.. a megadrive has given me pretty much emulator crispness on the picture and virtually zero latency (we are talking about a few scanlines as it doesn't have a framebuffer).

    Anyway, tools are there to get a superb image out of older systems, including consoles that have RGB output available.
    I wouldn't worry too much anymore as the quality you can get has already surpassed a CRT.
    Currently the main problem is the entry price, which can cost you $200 or up.
    Most likely in the future stuff like this is gonna come down in price and re-implemented & cloned for cheap in china.
    Cheap scalers that do better than the average TV do exist but I'd say that they still fall short.

  • That's what I'd say if I were still repairing arcade games (gladly, that era of my life is well behind me now). CRT monitors that were used in arcade games were typically not the greatest quality and were constantly having problems. Electrolytic caps blowing out, flyback transformers (and the transistor driving them) blowing out, other miscellaneous problems.. then there's the cheapskate operators, who would insist on trying to patch back together 20 year old monitors with CRTs that had severely burned phos
  • Forget LCD, last time I built a MAME-box it took me weeks of running around different electronics store showrooms to find that one IPS-display that happened to have good enough contrast and colour to replace an arcade-CRT.
    Also, when I inquired about the price, it cost like 3x as much as other similarly spec:ed displays.
    In the end, the colours were reasonable, but the viewing angles are still very much lacking.

    OLED has the best colours and contrast of any past or current display technology. That's what I'd h

    • OLED still has durability issues. After a couple of years of use, the blue diodes will degrade, leaving the screen yellowed. You can see this in many smartphones.

      • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
        If it were only on during use it would be a non issue, but if left on all the time, just a couple years would probably have a big effect.
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @01:20PM (#53985901) Journal
    The answer to the question is it will cost more to get a CRT screen, since they are no longer produced on an industrial scale.

    There is no reason you can't make one.

    Maybe you can get this guy to make you a screen - he makes tubes [], he just needs to think bigger...
    • hahaha, there are HUGE reasons why you can't make a modern color CRT screen, utterly beyond anything a hobbyist could ever hope to do. You should look up what is inside one and what tolerances are needed. That takes tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment.

  • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @01:57PM (#53986199)

    Putting on my old school broadcast engineering hat for a second. There are a lot of differences between CRTs and LCD displays, and in terms of nostalgia and authenticity towards 'the way it was' yes there will be something lost. For starters, CRT tubes were driven with an interlaced signal - the gun would scan top to bottom every other pixel row in 1/60th of a second, then scan the rows between those bottom to top in the next 1/60th of a second. Each set of half resolution rows is called a field. NTSC television ran at 60 fields per second, which gave the motion equivalent of 60 frames per second. A lot of these video games ran using only one field, for a vertical resolution of about 240 lines, at 30 fields per second. In between those lines were black lines, which gave the games a unique look. Rather than doubling each line, which makes the graphics look blocky, the black lines tricked the eyes into making it look like it was a higher resolution than it actually was, it gave a pleasing look. On some emulators such as MAME, there is an option to add the black lines in, which approximates the look. for the games that ran the full 60 fields, it also had a unique look as you could make out interlace flickering. Another artifact is the slight glow / spillover from each pixel, and the rather large visible discreet R, G and B dots that make up each pixel area, which also had some black between them. Add to that the curvature of the glass, and the frequent misalignment of the RGB pattern giving a chromatic abberation towards the edges of the signal. (when the R, G and B lines diverge) plus the softness of the analog signal overall, and you have a pretty unique look. In truth, emulators display games far crisper than they ever looked to us. This tends to over-emphasizes the simplicity of the graphics in a negative fashion. It's very possible to get close to the CRT look, but it will never be quite the same. I think that increased computing power will allow for the emulation of all of the artifacts listed above in realtime, it's just a matter of someone understanding them enough to emulate them. you could even dictate a level of screen burn for the attract screens, which most games tended to develop after a number of years cycling endlessly.

    In the mean time, get thee to an arcade expo such as California Extreme to experience it 'as it was'.

    • As someone who grew up in the CRT era (and remember bringing massively heavy 21" CRT displays to LAN parties), I say "good riddance".

      I remember being able to see the flicker when the monitor ran at 60HZ, and getting headaches unless it was a higher refresh rate. I used to run my monitor at a lower than max resolution so I could get 80+HZ, just to avoid the headaches.

      I still have that CRT in my garage, just because I haven't gotten around to giving it to the hazardous waste disposal yet. I don't miss
    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      The m6502 xscreensaver hack approximates CRT artefacts quite well on an LCD. I've yet to see an LCD screen with the real* contrast range of a CRT though.

      * Not the lying 20,000:1 contrast ratios that manufacturers claim.

  • by jgotts ( 2785 ) <jgotts@ g m a> on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:21PM (#53986345)

    I didn't have time to read all of the comments. My apologies if this is already well-tread ground.

    There are hundreds of millions of CRT television sets out there, and if you do a search on Youtube you will find videos of people who are fixing (to a degree at least) television sets that have been sitting out in the elements for decades. Television sets that have not been abused will last, essentially, forever: Even if you have no electronics troubleshooting skills, you can swap parts with other televisions until the set works. The only real wear out component in most televisions is capacitors, and you can train yourself to do cap replacements. I would imagine for really old televisions you will need to make some internal adjustments. That's not rocket science, either. Download the service manual.

    Right now people can't give CRT's away. Even thrift stores don't want them. But if for some reason the supply-demand curve swings around the other way, then people like me will start servicing CRT televisions and reselling them. If you can still buy vintage radios from the 1940's, then you can find a television set made in the 1990's. The "problem" is that manufactures can't profitably make them, and they may never do so again. Existing CRT televisions, though, won't be disappearing any time soon.

    I'm looking forward to the day that we start going to landfills to retrieve electronics for recycling, but we're a long way from that level of desperation (or technical ability).

  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Monday March 06, 2017 @02:36PM (#53986423)

    I will preface this by saying I grew up in the 80s, arcades, and even had 5 or 6 machines and about 30 boardsets in my day. I have burnt many a finger soldering up JAMMA or customized harnesses, and used to go to game auctions. It was a great time! I had friends that resurrected long-dead games from various ROMs they collected. I have seen and played one-of-a-kind games. I remember when people in the usenet community started building multi-game boardsets, it was very very exciting.

    If you would have told me I could have a big, thin, relatively cheap monitor for a cabinet that replaced the CRT, without the downsides of screen burn, weight, or the distinct possibility of electrocution, I would have loved it. Yes, there is something about the original monitors, the smell when they get warmed up, the glow, the look, etc. But that's because that was the best we had at the time! Newer isn't always better, but in this case I believe it is.

    I sold off my cabinets and boardsets about 10 years ago, it was sad to see them go. I am so glad that I got to grow up during that time. But I have a hard time being nostalgic for the CRT.

  • In fact, MAME already seems to allow HLSL processing of games you are playing: [] The idea is simple - figure out the visual phenomena commonly seen on a CRT screen. Write a pixel shader in HLSL/GLSL that mimics those visual phenomena using realtime image processing operations. This might be a combination of visible scanlines, blurryness around pixels, some bloom, warping of the image and so forth. Even an old Nvidia 500 series GPU can comfortably do these effects in realtim
  • MAME's scanline filters look really great, though.

    I still have CRTs and my MAME games look the very same on my LCD screens with the filters enabled.

  • I own an old Star Trek:Strategic Operations Simulator sit down game. Years back someone bumped into color vector monitor and it stopped working. The logic boards still function but getting a working monitor is difficult, expensive, and they were prone to malfunction/fire.

    I hate to say it but the only real future for the game is MAME. The port for ST:SOS works great. The only gameplay problem is working out input from the optical spinner might be more than my meager skills.

    • A classic computer mouse (when they weren't optical, but actually used a ball) has not one but 2 optical spinners in it. That shouldn't be too hard to work out.
  • you're saying that I can actually get something for my perfectly-functional (beautiful picture) Rasterops 20"+ monitor? I think it's a 21"?

  • Good riddance! there are countless warehouses full of old TV's and monitors with these lead-lined monsters in them, and no way to get rid of them. Screw the old arcade games.

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