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What is an Analog Monitor?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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An analog monitor is a cathode ray tube (CRT) display that resembles a conventional television. Analog monitors ruled the computer display market for decades until the digital revolution delivered flat panel Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) in the 1990s. By 2003 sales of digital monitors overtook CRTs. While there were some benefits, initially, in hanging on to an analog monitor, improvements in LCD technology and falling prices soon caused analog displays to go the way of the dinosaur.

An analog monitor has a deep footprint to accommodate the cathode ray design that shoots electrons down a tube on to the rear of a phosphorous screen encased in a gas-filled vacuumed chamber. The chamber is encased in lead to prevent escaping radiation, making analog monitors extremely heavy. Even a small monitor can weigh 35 pounds (~16 kg).

Despite the lead-lined interior, significant radiation escapes from the monitor's view screen, relative to LCD displays which produce almost no radiation. Adaptive add-on anti-radiation and anti-glare screens helped reduce frontal radiation and reduce eyestrain for those that spent several hours a day poised in front of these once-ubiquitous monitors.

Computers speak a digital language of simple ones and zeros. An analog monitor requires a waveform (analog) signal. The analog graphics card, installed inside the computer, can translate a computer's digital instructions into an analog signal that it sends to the monitor. LCD monitors use digital technology, eliminating the analog translation.

Some of the first commercially available analog monitors were monochrome displays that featured green text against a black background. From 1981 forward the ability to display color traveled through many iterations and a slew of acronyms that pointed to larger and larger color palettes and higher resolutions. By the time LCDs usurped the market, the average analog monitor was capable of resolutions of at least 1024 x 768 with an infinite number of colors in the palette.

Positive attributes of the analog monitor include the ability to display multiple native resolutions delivering crisp action and vivid, true color viewable from any angle. By contrast, LCDs can emulate various resolutions but only one resolution is native and recommended. Early LCDs also "ghosted" or blurred action due to slow pixel response rates, and the viewing angle was limited as colors would wash-out when viewed off-center. These drawbacks were quickly remedied to the satisfaction of the vast majority of the market, though some graphics professionals and diehard traditionalists might continue to find the analog monitor preferable for their purposes.

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Discussion Comments

By Animalz — On Jun 28, 2011

Is it possible to connect DVI to analog? My desktop computer only has a DVI connector, and my old CRT monitor still works fine. I don’t want to buy an LCD one. Is there a way to hook my analog monitor up to my computer’s DVI port?

By smartypantz — On Jun 28, 2011

@Vegemite – I refurbish computers and the first time I saw the phrase “analog LCD monitor” it threw me for a loop, too. Like the article says, LCD monitors are 100% digital, so in my opinion, calling them “analog” at all is silly.

The phrase “analog LCD monitor” refers to the fact that it can plug into an analog graphics card, using an analog cable. Most computers come with an analog port on the back, and you plug in the LCD monitor’s analog cable there, just like you would for a CRT monitor. Many of the cheaper LCD monitors only have analog connections, by the way.

Newer computers (and higher quality LCD monitors) might also have digital ports. In order to connect a monitor and computer via digital ports, you need a DVI cable.

Since LCD monitors are digital devices, the signal conversion from analog to digital and back again can cause tiny image or color distortions on the screen. If you want optimal performance, it’s best to use digital ports and a DVI cable.

However, if you’re not creating professional graphics, it’s not necessary to go 100% digital. To keep my costs down, I refurbish most of my computers with traditional graphics cards that only have analog ports. My customers are fine with it.

By Vegemite — On Jun 27, 2011

Is there such a thing as an analog LCD monitor? It sounds like an oxymoron to me. My monitor is described that way in its manual, and it came with an analog cable as well as a digital one. Someone please explain because I’m confused.

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