What Are Pixels, And Where Are They Going?

As a baby boomer, I am in the interesting position of living as an adult before computers were common in the home and workplace, and as such have see them develop and mutate over the years since the start of the 1980's. Among many remarkable improvements is the ability to display information - first on TVs, then monitors, first in monochrome, then in four colors, then 16, and so on. The pixel is often used as a measure the quality (the resolution) of the display that you have. A pixel is a "picture element" - one of those little colored dots you can see if you squint at your display up close - except they seem to have disappeared if you look at at the more recent tablet and phone products. 

Comparing a Retina display (right) with a more typical display

The pixels are still there, but whereas a few years ago a screen resolution (the number of pixels left to right and up and down on a display) of 1024 x 768 would be common, these days the numbers are much larger - 2880 x 1800 for the Apple MacBook pro -  and consequently the individual pixels are smaller; they are more dense or tightly packed If you think about it; there is a point at which our naked eye can't really discern the individual pixels, and we are there now with the iPad Retina Display and some others.  

Retina Display is an Apple marketing term, but there is a pixel density (PPI or pixels per inch) above which other companies displays can be thought of as Retina-like (or better). The actual PPI numbers vary depending on the size of the display too, but just realize that displays in general are becoming so good that the pixels are pretty much gone - and that's a good thing.

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