[TUHS] 80 columns ...

Jon Steinhart jon at fourwinds.com
Sun Nov 12 03:19:51 AEST 2017

Andy Kosela writes:
> I don't think it is about being dogmatic.  Please believe there are still
> some people who just _prefer_ 80 columns.  It could be because they were
> introduced to computing when this was a standard and they still treat it as
> a standard for text based computing, or they just find the aesthetics of
> this format much more pleasant to their eyes.
> For me there is something truly magical in the way 80 columns text look on
> a dark CRT display -- I also love the glow of green or amber phosphor and
> scanlines as visible clearly on vt220 for example.  So even though I am
> also using xterms these days, my perfect UNIX computing platform is
> still definitely a full screen text console 80x24 using CRT terminal.
> HD widescreen LCD displays are nice...but for modern graphics and video at
> high resolutions.  Try to display perfectly old Amiga or
> C64 graphics/games on a modern widescreen and you will know what I am
> talking about.  You need an old CRT for that, in 4:3 format.
> The same is for displaying text -- I don't believe you need the next gen
> monitor to display UNIX text based console (technology essentially from the
> 70s).  It actually looks worse on modern displays, which are optimized for
> HD _graphics_ and high native resolutions.
> If you think about it -- computing platforms and the Internet were text
> only in the 70s, 80s and a good part of the 90s, but since the rise of
> Windows 95 and the World Wide Web, the world has abandoned text and moved
> fully into the graphical world.  But we also lost something -- full screen
> text mode will always remain beautiful from an aesthetics perspective and
> it is still the best stimulant of the imagination, just like books.
> Todays generations do not even know how to stay focused on reading text --
> all they do is swipe their fingers on next colorful images on Instagram or
> Facebook...
> --Andy

Well, I think that you slightly misinterpreted my point.

I learned a great thing from a manager in the mid-1980s.  He told our group that
it was perfectly OK to say "I want to do it this way because I like it." And, if
there was no countervailing technical reason and if nobody else had a competing
way that they liked it then you'd get your way.  But, we'd never get our way or
a raise for that matter if he had to wade through a pile of pseudo-technical
hand-waving arguments that really were just about how you liked it.

My objection was people saying that there were technical reasons for 80 columns
when they were really saying that that was what they liked.

So me, yes, I pine for the Glance G displays that I worked on at BTL.  I have
a certain Pavlovian response to green flashes from my days working on Tektronix
storage tubes.  But really, my 32" UHD monitor is the best looking thing that
I've ever had.  Obviously something that puts out 640x480 pixels is going to
look bad without scaling, but that's OK.  I don't play old video games on my
modern computer.  I have a pair of side-by-side 132x87 windows in an easy to see
font that I use for most work with room for a bunch of small windows on the side.

The majority use of my display is for typing code.  I don't use graphical tools
unless forced to by a client, especially in the springtime.  I got a good
classics education and the admonition "Beware the IDEs of March" has stuck with
me :-)  When I need to mess with graphics the display is awesome.  Was editing
some audio yesterday and being able to use audacity at full screen width made
up for some of it's UI problems.

So if you _prefer_ 80 columns, go for it.  Just don't tell me that there are
technical reasons why I should abide by your preference.


More information about the TUHS mailing list