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The WGA Conspiracy

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Assigned keywords: Computer

At the moment, it is not possible to buy a notebook. Well, to be a little bit more fair: it is not possible to buy a decent, usable notebook, due to the iron grip of what must be the WGA conspiracy (and her side agenda, the Glare Scheme). I bought myself a WGA notebook last year and two for my colleagues. Never again! Fortunately I was able to sell it off and replace it by a Samsung P55 with 1440x1050. From there on, I was able to supply my workmates with P55s as well, but it seems that this source is about to run dry. So today I went to Saturn to take a brief look at the market situation, which is dire indeed: WGA is the rule now. WGA in itself would not be the problem if it was truly wider than their 4:3 ancestors, but in reality the WGA formats are just 4:3 panels treated with an angle grinder. What good for is a resolution that has 800 pixels height dimension, given the fact that most applications have thick bars above the work pane?

By the official line, WGA is the result of some dorks having finally found out that 16:9 is more suited to the human field of vision; as we have two eyes situated next to each other, it is not too far fetched to assume that our field of vision is wider than high. And it is actually quite large - from spreading out my arms and moving them into my FOV, I assume it has about 170°. But the WGA guys obviously haven't understood how human vision precisely works. For what I see at the outer fringes of my FOV when I move my arms in are not my clear hands, but rather fuzzy spots. Humans are next to blind as sharp vision is confined to 2° of the FOV, where the Fovea centralis is located. When this region becomes damaged or is not there to begin with, people have a heavy vision impairment.

The world seems sharp nevertheless, which is possible as the eye constantly moves around. If things spring up in the field of vision (such as a Sabretooth Tiger), the visual system will shift the sharp region to that point. That is why 16:9 is quite justified when watching movies - this is some kind of passive vision on the lookout for something new and the visual system will keep the sharp region to where the action happens, jumping to other regions of the canvas should a Sabretooth appear there. But in office work, vision is different, more active. I know where the action happens, which is usually around the Cursor or Pointer. The aspect ratio of the screen is next to irrelevant, as long as the screen is large enough.

But the problem is that most of the office work is done on documents which are presented higher than wide, such as the common DIN A4 page. The whole text writing tradition goes that way, possibly because of the scroll; it would not be very efficient to read a scroll sideways.
It would of course be possible to abandon the tradition and go to wide aspect ratios on documents, books, presentations, comics and others as well. But that would be as impractical as WGA on computers: consider a usual office letter with letterhead - you'd have the recipient on the left, a wide blank gap and the sender on the right, wasting more space that the normal letterhead. If going to landscape format, it would make sense to have the letter"head" sideways. But further problems await with footnotes, and even if that does not exist, the tradition to structure texts by making line breaks and paragraphs would consume more space on landscape documents than on upright format.

Now about the conspiracy - why have the vendors done something stupid as WGA? Well, the vendors have established diagonal sizes such as 17 and 19". When you grind some pixels off "normal" 19", the diagonal size does not shrink as much, but it is cheaper to manufacture such a display.
Concerning notebooks, it is even more practical. Keyboards have a natural wide aspect ratio, so the screen fits better to the keyboard and therefore makes it easier to design the notebooks casing. But Notebooks with usable resolutions such as having 'at least 900 pixels height will turn out to be quite large, and the even better 1920x1200 will be either even larger (unlikely) or sport a tiny resolution. But at least you can watch HD in full resolution.

Frankly, there are no alternatives. In a market oriented society, one would expect that there would be competition and that competition would keep 4:3 running. There is certainly a market, because I know a few people which have complained about WGA (including those workmates which ended up with it), yet all you can get is WGA (with glare, to add insult to injury). It is a phenomenon which I have often seen with products - companies will produce the same idocy, because it suits them all. Which brings me to conclude that though Communism doesn't work, Capitalism doesn't work either.
However, don't worry, capitalism will eventually bring back 4:3. Just be on the lookout for "Enterprise Grade" notebooks sans glare and with "revolutionary" 4:3 aspect ratio "specially designed for common office tasks". Of course they'll come with an Enterprise Grade price tag. Up to then, I'll live with the satisfaction that my P55 was one of the best investments in my life.


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