Headlines From The Past: “Heavy Video Game Use May Imprint Your TV” (December 21, 1977)
Good evening everyone, and happy new year! We are currently working on a “Year In Review” article to start off the new year, with a collection of highlights of RGN since we premiered earlier this year. But to finish off 2012, we decided to end it off with an interesting edition of our “Headlines From The Past” feature. This time, going way back to the Christmas season of 1977, where we could read an article from The St. Petersburg Times from Florida. When video games first started becoming popular in the home, there was a lot of concern about how these crazy new images could potentially damage your television set if not used properly. (Of course, this warning would continue in future generations of video games, with warnings for everything from rear projection TVs to Plasmas.) So what was the big concern in the 1970s?
I guess it’s safe to assume that over the years, whenever there is a new technology that is not fully understood, it always causes a ruckus and panic with the general public. Even to this day, people worry about other dangers, like cell phones causing cancer if you don’t use a Bluetooth device, and the like. But imprinting on television sets very well can happen. If you don’t believe me, do this test. Run the default paint program that comes with your computer. Make a large white picture, and then view it full screen. If you’ve been using the same version of Windows for more than a year, and use the computer often, chances are you will see your start menu button clear as day, when the screen is supposed to be all white. Also, if you have a widescreen set and watch a lot of television shows that used the original 4:3 ratio, if you watch a widescreen program after hours and hours of watching full frame, you’ll see the black bars on the sides temporarily burned into the set. So this actually was a danger that could have happened. So much in fact, that in the late 80s into the 90s, Nintendo and Sega actually had a section in their manuals warning against using the systems on front and rear projection televisions, as shown above.
Of course, many companies (especially Atari) took this into consideration when developing it’s 2600 console. Until you tell the system you’re ready to play, the system always cycled through the color palette, as seen in the above example. If you purchased other systems like the Channel F (which had a lot of white backgrounds) and no color rotation, it could have been a problem. (And the RCA Studio II could have been a lot worse.) Later this week, on a similar story, we are going to go a year prior to this, and report an old newspaper article which claimed the complete opposite of this article, just to round everything out.
St. Petersburg Times
Wednesday, December 21, 1977
HEAVY VIDEO GAME USE MAY ‘IMPRINT’ YOUR TV
Compiled from AP, UPI Wires
WASHINGTON – Prolonged, continuous use of electronic video games, popular Christmas gifts this year, may leave permanent patterns on television screens, the Federal Trade Commission warned this week.
However, if the devices are not subjected to “abnormal or extraordinary” use, they should not damage the screens, the commission said.
The FTC urged that manufacturers and sellers warn consumers prior to sale that prolonged display of a video game with a fixed patter is likely to result in a permanent image of the pattern on the TV screen, particularly that of a black and white set.
The best way to prevent marring a screen with an imprint is to shut off the game when it is not in use, the FTC emphasized.
The games attach to home TV sets and use the screens to project playing fields on which players can take part in electronic versions of hockey, tennis, war games, handball and dozens of other games.
The FTC said its findings are based on tests conducted by the National Bureau of Standards and other evidence.
To date, it said, it has received no consumer complaints. Most reported problems appear caused by continuous display of games by dealers and showroom sets, it said.
The FTC said imprinting on TV screens is most likely to occur if the games are used continuously, if the game has a high brightness level and if the set is black and white.
Tests showed that games with high brightness levels left imprints after 100 to 200 hours of continuous usage on black and white sets, and after 350 hours on color sets.
“Video games with low modulation signals, constantly changing luminance or automatic shut-off features significantly reduce the imprinting problem,” it said.
The agency offers this advice for Christmas shoppers:
Look for games and program cartridges that have low modulation video signals.
Look for games that utilize constantly changing luminance levels and colors when the game is left on but not being played.
The set’s controls should be adjusted for a normal picture on a broadcast program and then switched to the game. The game picture will then have low brightness whites or light colors and gray rather than true black tones.
Be aware that the imprint effect appears more readily in black and white than in color sets.
Most important of all, shut the game off when not in use.
The FTC said it is still monitoring advertising for the games and is urging manufacturers and sellers to alert consumers that prolonged display of games with a fixed pattern may burn the pattern into the tube.
Where imprinting does occur, stationary details of a game’s image remain on the screen, although the image will be less visible when the set is turned on, the agency said.