MadSci Network: Computer Science

Re: Do TV games damage TV's in any way, how?

Date: Tue Mar 28 02:58:48 2000
Posted By: Matthew B. Weyerich, Technical Coordinator,ES&R Dept., CPI Corp.
Area of science: Computer Science
ID: 952955811.Cs

Hi, Michael!

I'm pretty sure TV games normally don't hurt your TV.

Some definitions of "normal" may vary, however.

Your TV (or, TV / VCR combo) is pretty much designed to work with standard input voltages and waveforms. (There are lots of different types of TV's, and VCR's. Almost all of them conform to someone's standard.) If you live in North America, your TV understands the NTSC format. If you live in Europe, it may understand the PAL format. Similarly, your TV can only plug into one power source, at one specific voltage level. (You might have a plug/switch which transforms voltages. Even so, there aren't too many choices of voltage / frequency for power supply.)

If you consider the aforementioned "formats" as "languages", your TV can understand whichever your owner's manual says it can. Same thing with the power, except some TV's have a nifty switch which lets them work on 120 VAC, or, 240 VAC, which covers most of the power spectrum a TV could wish for in the modern world. So, MOST TV's can handle both the power and signal requirements they will receive in "normal" situations. (Well, in most places, anyway.)

Your game spits out a signal, just like the one which comes across your TV antenna, mostly. Sometimes the format ("language") is different…your game might "speak" S-Video to your TV. As long as both "speak the same language", everything is usually fine. (There are people who spend lots of time defining these "languages"…how many volts, how long the pulses are, which pins get "tweaked",etc..) Unless something goes seriously wrong, your game is supposed to "talk" to your TV in a very kind, unobtrusive manner.

What could go wrong?

Well, a bolt of lightning could come along and "whack" everything unexpectedly. If that happens you'll know it, because everything will be dead, smoking, or, on fire. (Dial 911 IF your phone isn't also on fire. Otherwise, just run away, fast!)

Or, there could be a random voltage spike in your game, VCR, TV, etc.. You might see this, but, you also might not. Your TV and game are pretty much shielded from this kind of stuff.

So, how could a game hurt your TV? Two ways:

First, if you leave your game on an unmoving screen (where the picture doesn't change at all,) for a LONG time, you could suffer screen "burn-in". This happens because the electron guns at the back of your screen keep hitting the same targets over and over…much like people walking down the center of a carpeted hallway…a "path" gets traced. Your game probably doesn't do that, but, it can happen, if you leave your system pounding electrons onto the same screen. (Many computers, games, TV's, and other video devices have a "screensaver" mode, in which the display is changed / blanked after a certain time.) I wouldn't worry about with your TV, though. The monitors I see suffering from this problem have all been displaying nothing but the SAME screen for at least two YEARS. (In other words, one night won't hurt, if you fall asleep!)


I didn't think of this, but my friend Cliff did: If you are playing a "TV game" like "football", in which someone actually tosses you a TV, and, you DROP it, well…that could be bad, huh? (The screen would implode, glass would fly all over the place…and you would NOT get a first down! Not to mention, you'd void your warranty!) You probably weren't asking about that, though…

Other than what I've mentioned above, I can't really think of anything. Most devices of this sort are standardized to a certain set of voltages and frequencies. (AND "you can only fumble me from so-high" limitations…'though I did once personally "fumble" a 20 inch TV off the back of the back of what was basically a full-sized dump-truck, onto an asphalt driveway. Cracked the plastic case, but, it "lived" and worked for years thereafter. I still can't explain this, considering it was in my arms at head level when I dropped it from a standing position in the bed of the truck…I stand 6'3" tall…did I forget to say the "bed" of this truck was at least 4' off the ground? Mathematics says that poor TV fell at least 10 feet, and that big ol' delicate vacuum tube didn't shatter. Go figure!)

Mostly, there is no way your game can hurt your TV. If you can think of one, call me, as I'm sure we could sell it to the TV and game manufacturers. (Look up "planned obsolescence" on the web.) Otherwise, keep on playing. Just be sure to take a little time to use your computer to look up some old games like "Pong" and "Space Invaders" just in case "us old guys" come back to haunt you!

Hope this has helped in some way.

Your MadSci,


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