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The Wikipedia article on the Game Boy lists the display as an STN display, whereas the ones for TI graphing calculators don't give any detail. However, even knowing that it's an STN display only partially narrows things down because there's still a huge amount of variation, according to my further research, since these LCDs come in all sorts of forms. For example, there's different variations, such as CSTN, FSTN, FFSTN, with display modes such as reflective, transflective, or transmissive (whatever those mean). Moreover, all of these seem to have different color characteristics, some being full color, others being monochrome but not necessarily grayscale, some having pixel ghosting like the Game Boy while others are crisp and backlit, etc.

With all this different variation, can anyone narrow this type of LCD down to a specific category?

(For reference: I really like this type of grayscale, non-backlit, complete-with-pixel-ghosting LCD. I want to see they're still manufactured by anyone and use them in my personal projects if so.)

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The original Gameboy, which I assume this is about, is, as Wiki states a Reflective, 160 × 144 Pixels, STN LCD.

  • Reflective means that it has no backlight nor other means of ilumination but simply reflects the sunlight (*1).
  • STN stands for the type of reflective molecules used. They offered an improved 'turning' angles for a sharper display compared with TN.
  • 160 × 144 Pixels - STN also allows smaller pixel, good for such 'high' resolution.

Most important, STN uses less expensive mask/matrix control, enabling lower prices - great for a device intended to be as cheap as possible.

That's it, no additional letters needed.

All those other xSTN types are about an even more complex setup for better quality and/or colour and/or speed which of course came with added cost - not really a development goal for Nintendo.

Basic STN provides that cheap yellowish/grey you love.

Now, finding a display that is as bad as a genuine early Gameboy screen might be harder, as nowadays even cheap displays with the same technology are produced with way higher quality, if available at all.


Also, I assume what you describe as 'ghosting' is simply a visibility of the etched control surfaces visible under good condition, right? That comes for free :)) Same goes if this is supposed to refer to some 'blur', which is simply due STN being quite slow.


Calculators(*2) in contrast used TN displays, which are less sharp - something not needed for calculators as their displays featuring huge steady 'pixels' in their 7 segment displays.

(Much) Later 'graphics' calculators aren't different, thus TN is still the preferred option. Only at the higher end FSTN (Film compensated) were used. They add a film which increases slows the reaction time in favour of higher contrast, giving a crisp, almost straight black on white display.


*1 - Those other variants are all about where the light originates and how it's handled to improve readability - noting Nintendo would spend money on.

*2 - At that point the question gets way too broad. Maybe restrict it to only one topic - like just the game boy display.

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  • To clarify (and I'll update the question), I meant graphing calculators, so with "real" square pixels, not 7-segment displays. I assume those use STN as well. And by "ghosting", I mean how pixels don't immediately turn on and off, but blur on and off, leading to motion blur for moving objects. And yes, I love that cheap yellowish-gray :)
    – v-rob
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 2:09
  • Graphing calculators actually precede the Gameboy: the Casio fx-7000G came out in 1985, the Gameboy in 1989. The TI-81 and the HP 48sx followed in 1990. So it makes sense to compare the display of the Gameboy to that of contemporaneous graphing calculators: same era, similar size, similar resolution. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 7:44
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    @MichaelGraf Point is that there are many different graphics calculators, so any question needs to be focused one or maybe two exact types.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 10:31
  • All monochrome TI graphing calculators use nearly identical screens, but I shouldn't have assumed that everyone knows that. The TI-83 is a concrete (and perhaps the most well known) example, so I'll update to use that. Still, I assume that it's probably just another STN display. Unfortunately, there seem to be precious few of these sold anymore, worse luck.
    – v-rob
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 23:13
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    @v-rob Probably - except TI wasn't (and isn't) the only manufacturer/brand of graphic calculators (personally I always prefered Casio :))
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 23:22

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