Notes on Monitors
by Mark Shannon
Monitor effects basically fall into two types, the physical limitations of the color ranges from the phosphor/shadow mask/glare screening combination built into the monitor hardware, and the settings by the user of their graphics card and monitor. The LED based screens in the flat screens and lap-tops have similar physical limitations and ranges inherent in their manufacture, though the details will differ.
Phosphors are chemicals, and are customized by the manufacturer to try to optimize how long the phosphor glows after it has been excited by the electron gun in the CRT and the primary color range. There are no perfectly pure red/green/blue phosphors, the range of colors that can be made by the RGB method in practice is limited by their chemical properties, the electron guns may not be exactly matched in their energy output, and the phosphors may have different proportional responses to the same amount of electron bombardment. The hardest colors to obtain are in the brown range, since these require mixtures of all three RGB inputs, and some monitors are notably poor. The manufacturer of the display also has to make sure that the phosphor intended to be excited is the only one hit - again, optimizing what is impossible to get perfect.
The monitor is designed to be used in any number of systems with any of the current or past graphics cards installed. Higher resolutions require very high refresh rates, and more graphics memory. Again, older and lower end graphics cards may have fewer adjustments, as well. Typically, the card is 'hard set' through its chips, capacitors, and jumper wiring to a factory standard. Most people don't change this. The color resolution of the card and monitor are digital, as well, so there is a limit to the number of colors, and a fixed 'color step' .
The driver software for the graphics cards, and Windows 'Display Settings', allow for a number of color adjustments - sometimes allowing independent adjustments of related parameters. Most people don't do anything with these. Those who are particular about color have the ability to adjust the color correction, brightness, contrast, etc - independently of what display is on the other end of the cable. Then your monitor gives you its own set to change the red/green/blue response, along with another brightness and contrast.
When these are set by Microsoft, the graphics card manufacturer, and the monitor manufacturer, who knows what computer/card/monitor combination the system will be. With all these variables, it is no wonder that it is impossible to ensure that the color on the screen of Ed Profipack's computer is a perfect match to Bob Teeniweenyscale's.
It sounds depressing, I'm sure, but it is actually not too bad. The colors are relatively good, you can certainly eliminate wide ranges of shades, and the contrasts between two colors can be seen with some certainty. It is just a matter of not being able to turn on your monitor, download a JPEG, and become an immediate primary reference color policeman. Oh, one last point, there are colors that can be represented in RGB and you can see on screen, that have no Munsell designation. There are also Munsell colors that cannot be represented in RGB. And Methuen has no fixed depiction.