CRT TVs were great, and an absolute must for all classic video games. However, it cannot be denied that it's impossible to buy a new CRT TV today, at least in any kind of normal store, and you rarely even see any old ones being thrown away anymore. At least not here. A few years ago, I would still spot them regularly just for picking up for free. Such is no longer the case, probably because all "normal" people have switched to flat screens at this point.

It's possible that somebody might find a "new old stock" CRT TV in a warehouse somewhere, but that's insanely lucky and I don't have any such connections (or luck). Besides, they are large, heavy and clunky. They will likely be impossible to repair or find spare parts for if and when they break. Opening one up myself and poking around can literally be lethal.

Hooking up a classic console to a modern TV never gives you the right look, not even if you buy a special "upscaler" device to put in between. (No matter how expensive the upscaler is, it just isn't logically possible because a completely different technology was used to display the picture with the old TVs. Maybe it can one day be accurately simulated with future, ultra-hi-res and superior to today's TV tech, but we aren't even close to there yet.)

This made me think of this theoretical "fake CRT", built new and physically flat, but not using the standard flatscreen technology of today, but rather some sort of "simulated CRT" technology. Is there such a thing? Imagine being able to order a flat, convenient 14" or 21" CRT "panel" that you simply place in your home which produces an image just like the old CRTs, but without all the problems that come from obtaining and keeping a CRT TV around.

I'm not looking for a general TV which also "doubles as" a retro gaming display, but a dedicated one which is only for retro gaming and has no requirements of displaying normal modern TV/whatever signals. All I want is an accurate simulation of what the CRTs produced, so that an expert eye could not tell the difference if you placed this thing on a wall next to an actual CRT which is built into the wall.

Is there such a thing, or is anyone working on one? If not, what's stopping this from existing? Too small market? Physical limitations that prevent this from ever existing?


I don't see how such a thing would be technically possible.

Either you need to use circuitry to adapt the signal to look CRT-ish on an existing display technology (i.e. an upscaler) or you need to eat the costs tooling up for, producing, and shipping an alternative display technology for a niche market.

...and I don't know any technology which would get you what you want in a flat panel without using an upscaler.

The CRT look was achieved by this process:

  1. Let the console perform a digital to analog conversion to generate the video signal.
  2. Drive an electron gun more or less directly from that analog signal
  3. Let the arc of the electron beam act as a physics-based upscaler, akin to using a projector and a lens (this is why CRTs aren't flat)
  4. Let the physical persistence properties of the phosphors interact with human persistence of vision to handle things like deinterlacing and any other smoothing effects which are relevant for a given input.
  5. Let the combination of an analog signal and no 1-to-1 correspondence between the input signal and the scale of the phosphor elements provide smoothing effects.

The closest you can get to that in a flat panel is using a high-DPI display, an even more powerful upscaler, and smearing your upscaled pixels across the physical pixels to simulate how the electron beam interacts with the phosphor elements in a CRT.

...or, alternatively, you could try using a projector and a wall or roll-up screen to cheat the "physics-based upscaling requires a pyramidal volume of space" part by using the open space in the room instead of the space behind the screen.

  • 3
    "Flat CRT" technology actually does (did) exist: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TV80
    – tofro
    May 11 at 18:09
  • 1
    Worthy of mention is the Linux program Cool Retro Term, which emulates the various foibles of CRT terminals such as the VT100 and ADM3a. Obviously this isn’t the same as a video display, but shows what could be done.
    – Frog
    May 11 at 19:52
  • 1
    @Frog It's also worthy to mention that none of the attempts to emulate a real CRT TV (or even a CRT monitor) come even close to the real thing, in particular for colors and how they mix.
    – dirkt
    May 11 at 20:50

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