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### Author Topic: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?  (Read 12932 times)

#### superboyac

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##### Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« on: January 07, 2011, 06:27 PM »
Ok, one more rant for the week.

I am SOO tired of this diagonal screen length that has now become the standard dimension to advertise for all screens.  It's not the dimension itself that irritates me, since it is partly helpful.  It's more of the reason WHY it has become the standard number to give for screen sizes.  It's the exact same manipulation that is used for prices...the whole \$3.99 thing (the .99 part).

It's so freaking annoying.  Why?  Because every time I see a screen size with the diagonal, which is all of them now, I have to go through a whole mental exercise to figure out what that actually means to me as far as width x height.  I don't know about you guys, but when I see rectangular objects, I do not intuitively think about the diagonal length, nor do I really give a shit.  Length and width makes sense to me.  You tell me length and width, and I know exactly what you are talking.  I can picture the shape, I can figure out very quickly and intuitively if it fits somewhere, etc.  All good stuff.

You tell me the diagonal length, and I'm like "cmon, asshole", now I have to do all this math to really understand how big it is.  Furthermore, to really tell, you need the ratio also.  "Oh, but they give you the screen resolution in the spec also.  So you can just figure it out.  It's all there!"  Shut up!!  As if i don't have enough work to do!  So now, I'm supposed to take the freaking 12" diagonal number, and then take the 1024x768 number and do all the math to figure out the length and width??  Are you kidding me?  Look at those numbers...12, 1024, 768!  Cmon people!

But that's how they get you.  I have no idea what a 54" TV means to me.  But it allows them to use the bigger number.  of course the diagonal is going to be a bigger number than the length or the width.  So given the three numbers that describe screen size, of course they are going to use the biggest one.  That's good marketing.  Useless, but good marketing.

What happened is that one company started doing this.  I remember when monitor sizes were given as LxW.  The diagonal was also given as a convenience, but not the main feature.  Now, it's the one sticker that is prominently featured on the product.  Anyway, back in those days, what happened was one company started doing it.  They were able to advertise a "bigger" number for the same size screen as their competitor.  The competitors must have lost a little bit of the market because of the people who got duped by it.  So they all started doing it.  Now it's the thing to do.

#### JavaJones

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2011, 10:08 PM »
Man, it must be a looong time since this change was made. I vaguely remember a possible distant past where you may be right, LxW was available, but I can't recall when, heh. The single diagonal number does annoy me, yet I also understand it. For most average consumers a single number is enough to tell them what they need to know, especially since it's generally comparable with other similar displays (aspect ratios vary, but not usually enough to make a huge, huge difference).

Anyway, I agree less info is worse than more info, in general. But I don't blame the manufacturers on it *too much*...

- Oshyan

#### mwb1100

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2011, 10:37 PM »
In my experience, diagonal was all that was ever used for screens dating back to when the only thing they were used for was TVs.  It wasn't a problem then since all screens had the same aspect ratio, so the measurement was always pretty much apples to apples.

But you're 100% right - once we started getting different screen ratios, a diagonal measurement doesn't cut it anymore (though a 54" screen is prety damn big no matter what).

#### JavaJones

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2011, 10:45 PM »
Most screens are widescreen, near or at 16:9 (sometimes 16:10 or close variations) these days (somewhat to my dismay, but that's a later blog post). Non-widescreen displays are increasingly rare, so it's not really that much different than it used to be...

- Oshyan

#### mwb1100

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2011, 10:58 PM »
Non-widescreen displays are increasingly rare, so it's not really that much different than it used to be...
-JavaJones

You're right.  I suppose it's an old dog/new trick thing for me.

#### 4wd

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2011, 11:12 PM »
In my experience, diagonal was all that was ever used for screens dating back to when the only thing they were used for was TVs.  It wasn't a problem then since all screens had the same aspect ratio, so the measurement was always pretty much apples to apples.
-mwb1100

The only extra information you used to see for monitors was 'Viewable Area' which gave you WxH because, (IIRC), the number quoted for diagonal was the size of the tube not taking into account the bezel surrounding it.

When LCD/Plasma came along the diagonal quoted was both size of the panel and viewable area because the bezel didn't exclude anything.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2011, 11:25 PM by 4wd »

#### f0dder

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2011, 05:42 AM »
I've never seen computer screens or TVs advertised by anything else than their diagonal widths - and that's ever since computer monitors were 14". And I find that to be a pretty fine indication of physical size, really, moreso today where ratio has been pretty much stabilized on 16:9/16:10 (there's not a lot of 4:3 monitors around anymore). Aside from physical constraints when putting a Pretty Damn Big TV in a Puny Little Room, WxHxD isn't that important to me.

And well, you always have to look at detailed specs anyway, otherwise you aren't getting brightness, contrast or pixel resolution. The diagonal width is simply a coarse-grained search filter, the one that you apply first when searching for a new TV or monitor - nothing more, nothing less
- carpe noctem

#### 40hz

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2011, 06:58 AM »

Next thing you know he's gonna want them to stop advertising \$100 items as: Only \$99.99!

#### 40hz

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2011, 07:13 AM »
And I find that to be a pretty fine indication of physical size, really, moreso today where ratio has been pretty much stabilized on 16:9/16:10 (there's not a lot of 4:3 monitors around anymore).
-f0dder

Still, it would be nice if they just gave you the WxH measurement instead of making you resort to plugging the screen ratio numbers along with the diagonal measurement into the Pythagorean theorem just to get an answer.

Ever look at all the specs they print on those boxes? They'll tell you everything you could possibly want to know about the product - including several things any sane person could care less about. In short, they tell you everything BUT the freekin' width and height measurements of the screen.

What's up with that?  Is there some gentleman's agreement in the industry that you don't talk about WxH?

« Last Edit: January 08, 2011, 07:15 AM by 40hz »

#### Ath

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2011, 07:28 AM »
What's up with that?  Is there some gentleman's agreement in the industry that you don't talk about WxH?
-40hz

Must I share my weight and height? Somebody'd probably be embarrassed

#### justice

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2011, 08:31 AM »
Instead of having to compare L and W you now only compare D so that keeps things easier

#### tomos

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2011, 12:10 PM »
with widescreen monitors, the height is very important.
Mine is 16:10, I already miss the height - if it were 16:9 I'd need another one on top...
Tom

#### nudone

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2011, 01:24 PM »
with widescreen monitors, the height is very important.
Mine is 16:10, I already miss the height - if it were 16:9 I'd need another one on top...
-tomos

16:9 should never have been allowed to make its way into the computer world.

#### Eóin

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2011, 03:06 PM »
Resolution and pixel pitch is what I look, i find the physical dimension much less useful.

#### superboyac

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2011, 03:09 PM »
And I find that to be a pretty fine indication of physical size, really, moreso today where ratio has been pretty much stabilized on 16:9/16:10 (there's not a lot of 4:3 monitors around anymore).
-f0dder

Still, it would be nice if they just gave you the WxH measurement instead of making you resort to plugging the screen ratio numbers along with the diagonal measurement into the Pythagorean theorem just to get an answer.

Ever look at all the specs they print on those boxes? They'll tell you everything you could possibly want to know about the product - including several things any sane person could care less about. In short, they tell you everything BUT the freekin' width and height measurements of the screen.

What's up with that?  Is there some gentleman's agreement in the industry that you don't talk about WxH?
-40hz
That's my point, exactly!  They deliberately withhold that information, because if they did list it, even in the smaller print, customers would get used to seeing it there.  Soon, customers would get used to it and start talking about their tv's using those numbers instead of the diagonal number, because it just makes more sense.  So, in the office, when someone asks how big your tv is, right now we say 50" or whatever....but eventually, if that information was readily available, people would start saying 40x30" even if not all the time...but that would destroy the power of that big >>54"<< sticker that is so prominent on the tv's in the store now.  Anyway...

#### JavaJones

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2011, 03:10 PM »
with widescreen monitors, the height is very important.
Mine is 16:10, I already miss the height - if it were 16:9 I'd need another one on top...
-tomos

16:9 should never have been allowed to make its way into the computer world.
-nudone

Ooo, I have a blog post/rant about that waiting in the wings. I should finish it up and post already, hehe. It's actually been on the back burner for, oh, 2 years or so. Yeesh!

- Oshyan

#### Eóin

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2011, 03:32 PM »
They deliberately withhold that information, because if they did list it, even in the smaller print, customers would get used to seeing it there.  Soon, customers would get used to it and start talking about their tv's using those numbers instead of the diagonal number, because it just makes more sense.  So, in the office, when someone asks how big your tv is, right now we say 50" or whatever....but eventually, if that information was readily available, people would start saying 40x30" even if not all the time...but that would destroy the power of that big >>54"<< sticker that is so prominent on the tv's in the store now.  Anyway...
-superboyac

That's a pretty hypothetical conspiracy theory, and one I don't buy. Most people aren't good with figures, trying to compare tv sizes when presented with two dimensions gives you four figures to juggle, that's too much for most people who, frankly, aren't really that bothered at the end of the day anyway. So manufactures/advertisers give one figure because that's what most people want. Those of us who need the two figures can look them up/work the out for ourselves.

It would be selfish of me to want advertisers to confuse the majority just to make the my, and the minorities, lives ever so slightly simpler.

#### 40hz

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2011, 06:47 PM »
OK. I just had to research this since it seemed too weird to be anything other than a marketing ploy.

To my surprise, my cynical assumption turned out to be completely wrong as far as I can tell.

Seems the "diagonal picture measurement" goes way back to when TVs first started being made in the 1930s. Due to technical limitations in the manufacturing process, only round picture tubes could initially be built.

The picture was projected in the center of the tube. And the once massive furniture-like case (often with doors) most sets were built into put a rectangular bezel around the tube to mask the area that didn't show the picture. The diameter of the tube determined maximum size of the image. The "diagonal" is the length of the diameter line as it passes through the image area.

Like so:

This was probably the most accurate way to let a customer know what the image size was since the diameter of the picture tube only set the maximum size of the image. It did not reflect the actual size being projected. A 25-inch set could easily have a picture diagonal that measured exactly the same as the one on a 23-inch set. And many did because the smaller the diagonal in relation to the diameter of the tube, the better the quality of the picture projected. This was because image convergence became a problem the further out you got from the center of the tube.

Rectangular tubes were first attempted as early as 1950.

From Popular Mechanics (March 1950) - click to enlarge.

Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?

But non-round picture tubes didn't go into real production till around 1965 when Motorola introduced the first generally available rectangular tube according to a Popular Science (Dec 1964) article. Read it here.

Other manufacturers soon introduced their own models. In 1966, the FCC issued a ruling that TV images should be measured on the diagonal just like they were when the tubes were still round to avoid possible confusion for the consumer.

So it's definitely not a conspiracy.    And it does make sense in a way.

But that still doesn't explain why they couldn't just put the WxH measurements on the box too.

« Last Edit: January 08, 2011, 08:37 PM by 40hz »

#### superboyac

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2011, 11:54 PM »
Bravo!  Freaking 40hz!  Thanks man.

OK, so as is usually the case with life's truth, it's not black or white, but a gray area.  So the diagonal thing is definitely not a conspiracy as I laid out above.  However, now that it has been a fair amount of years or decades since the tube limitations were an issue, why haven't the companies started using the WxH measurement?  I still insist that the reason is because the number won't be as big and they will lose ground to other competitors that keep using the diagonal.  So it's not a conspiracy, but there is a deliberate attempt to NOT show that information.

If I were them, I'd at least put the WxH on the smaller print of the display units in the stores or online, whatever.  They can still rely on the diagonal as their MAIN sticker or standout number, but somewhere tell us what the width and length are.  I mean, as someone stated, they give us all the other seemingly unimportant numbers, why not that one?

Actually, if it were really up to me, I'd make a standard sticker that showed the diagonal, length AND width all in a standard way.  I've already seen somewhat standard badge-like stickers that they put on tv's in the stores, and it's basically a big black sticker with a yellow diagonal going across with the number 54" shown on it.  Well, just add a vertical and horizontal arrow in a different color and smaller scale with those other numbers, and everyone's happy.  Right?  Nobody can say anything to that one.

#### nudone

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2011, 07:16 AM »
this is kind of a side issue, but remember "HD Ready" (which still persists). what GOOD reason is there for creating such a label and then sticking it on a TV that won't actually display images in HD; other than to fool potential customers into thinking they are buying a "HD" TV when they aren't.

that is one of the most cynical acts i've seen by the major brands against us. if they are happy to do that i'm prepared to believe they'll do anything to increase sales with little regard to the customer.

so, yeah, i buy into the theory of displaying the biggest number they can get away with to make the screen sound bigger.

#### Ath

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2011, 07:37 AM »
Sidenote:
That "HD Ready" moniker on a TV actually means you can feed it some of the recognized HD formats (sometimes as low as 1280x720 resolution, and there are lower HD resolutions), not necessarily meaning "Full HD". It's sort of the same as "High-Speed USB" that came with USB 2.0, and that says nothing about the actual highest USB speed available

#### Eóin

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2011, 08:00 AM »
Any HD-ready TVs I ever saw in shops were 1280x720 resolution. That is still a fair bit higher than regular definition, and as Ath points out, it is a HD resolution.

#### nudone

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2011, 08:01 AM »
well, yeah, i know what HD Ready means - because i went out my way to find out when i first saw it. but as "HD Ready" has been around for several years, way before you could even view any HD material (here in the UK) it just seems like a blatant marketing/sales ploy.

if i'd asked anyone back then what HD Ready means they'd have replied "it means it's a HD TV, OBVIOIUSLY". and that is exactly the response i did get - and still get to this day. back then, i'd even get it from "helpful" sales staff.

i've seen people now selling their old CRT TVs that are about 10 years old stating they are HD Ready and DVB Ready - because you can still view HD and DVB on the tv set - IF you plug a device in that can first handle HD and DVB. it's total nonsense.

i'm obviously Olympic 2012 "Ready" for the Men's 100 Meter Sprint.

this new "technical" definition of "ready" really ought to be changed to "rubbish". it would be a lot more honest, i think.

#### nudone

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #23 on: January 09, 2011, 08:06 AM »
good point. 720 is HD, and also crap. i'm just thankful we've now got something like a standard with 1080p. which should have been the standard right at the beginning - not "ready".

#### f0dder

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##### Re: Can we stop with the diagonal screen length thing?
« Reply #24 on: January 09, 2011, 03:03 PM »
good point. 720 is HD, and also crap. i'm just thankful we've now got something like a standard with 1080p. which should have been the standard right at the beginning - not "ready".
-nudone
720p is Just Fine(TM), unless you've got a ridiculously large TV - but "HD Ready" is definitely a bad label.
- carpe noctem