Most of us see this on our computer screens at home and at work. But how did the screen saver come about? Well, any image shown on the computer for a long time was “burnt into” the screen. Old CRT monitors had an issue known as “burn in.” You’d always see a ghost image even though you switched the display off entirely.
For images that don’t alter, such as interface elements, this is especially bad. For starters, since it just sits at the bottom of the screen and seldom changes, the Windows taskbar can be burned into the screen. An old TV showing a news channel with a ticker at the bottom can end up burning the ticker on the screen. Burn-in can also end up with an ATM that displays a single image most of the time. Essentially, the phosphors within the CRT that emit light are worn down unevenly, making certain parts of the screen darker.
When the machine was not in operation, screen savers solved this issue by automatically triggering it. Screen savers display an animation that varies consistently, largely removing the screen burn-in issue by ensuring that a static image is not always on-screen.
Modern computer screens (and also TVs) are not CRTs, they are LCDs. There are no phosphors to burn in LCD monitors that function differently than CRTs. As with a CRT display, an LCD monitor can never burn in the same way.
Although many computers are still programmed to use an animated screensaver for a period of time after the machine has been idle, this is not really necessary. When we’re away from them, the fact that our monitors remain on and play animations no longer really makes sense-just it’s something that many people have continued to do out of habit.
There is a misunderstanding that screen savers save energy, an apparent product of people trying to understand what “save” screen savers really do. Screen savers, however, do not save energy, they use more energy to hold the screen on and play the animation on the screen. When you’re not even on your monitor, a graphics-intensive 3D screensaver that uses your graphics hardware to make complex 3D scenes can consume even more resources, putting your computer into gaming mode and wasting electricity.
Modern displays have functions that save power. You can configure the device to automatically turn off its monitor when it is not used, instead of setting your computer to display a screen saver when you are not using it. This will save electricity and a laptop will save battery power. While the screensaver is running, you’re not using your computer, anyway. You shouldn’t really notice a difference.
While these days, screensavers don’t really save too many screens, they are just as fun as they used to be. In fact, since graphics are more complicated and the internet has many more choices to choose from, they may even be more fun. One of the key reasons why screensavers have stuck around for so long is the importance of entertainment. Cybersecurity is another one. In order to regain access to your computer, some modern screensavers let you enter a password, thereby preventing anyone from stealing your details while you are on a coffee break.
Check out my related post: What does your computer wants you to know?