Remember the old days when you spent hours hunting for the coolest screensavers? You probably haven’t done that for some time, and you aren’t really missing out on anything if you haven’t.
In fact, in the world of modern screens, screensavers are wholly unnecessary. Screensavers once served an important purpose, but they’re now obsolete. Feel free to never use a screensaver ever again — but that being said, there are a few reasons why you might want to.
What Do Screensavers Do, Exactly?
The original purpose of a screensaver was simple: to save your screen.
But remember, this was back when computer monitors primarily consisted of cathode ray tubes (CRT). CRT monitors create images by emitting red, green, and blue lights at various intensities to display different colors. When a CRT monitor shows the same image for too long, however, the color permanently settles on the screen, causing what is known as image burn.
So, for example, a static element on the screen — like the Windows task bar or the Mac Menu bar — would, over time, get burned into the screen. Even when you switched the screen off, you could see an outline of the task bar’s ghost.
Screensavers were meant to stop this. When your computer wasn’t being used, the screensaver would jump into action and play a video that disrupted these static pixels in order to prevent image burn.
When Screensavers No Longer Matter
While the logic of screensavers is solid, it’s only relevant today if you still use CRT monitors or plasma screens. LCD and LED monitors don’t have image burn problems like they do, and since laptops and monitors are now primarily LCD or LED, the purpose of the screensaver is moot.
Note that even on LCD and LED monitors, displaying the same image for many days or weeks can cause “stuck pixels”, but that’s a temporary issue. You can actually fix stuck pixels with software whereas CRT image burn is a permanent problem.
Some people believe that screensavers exist to save power, but that’s entirely false. Computers actually use more power when running a screensaver in order to keep the screen on. Want to save power? Ditch screensavers completely. All modern operating systems have power saving features that switch the screen off when inactive.
5 Amazing Screensavers That You’ll Love
While screensavers are no longer necessary to “save your screen”, they can still be useful for other things. For example, when you go idle, your monitor can turn into a heads-up display for information, motivation, tools, or entertainment.
And importantly, computers are often connected to TVs these days, since you can make cheap HTPCs now. There’s a good chance you still have a plasma TV, which requires a screensaver because it is susceptible to burn-in like CRTs.
1. Playing NES Games
You can play old NES games for free in your browser already, but there’s something exceptionally cool about the Uber NES Screensaver. It demos NES games as screensavers and lets you play them with the tap of a button.
When you come back to your computer, you’ll see a grid of different games being played on auto mode. Select a game like Super Mario Bros 3 with your cursor keys and press a key to jump right in.
Uber NES Screensaver is easy to set up if you follow the instructions carefully, and you can download several popular NES games through a selectable menu.
2. Live ISS View of Earth
What does our little blue rock look like from way up in the International Space Station? One Redditor has a guide to setting up a live stream as a screensaver. Reddit can be awesome sometimes.
The aforementioned Redditor also has a brilliant setup for multiple monitors, which you can see above. Read the full guide and discussion before you proceed.
3. Reminders and Motivating Messages
In Windows, Mac, and Linux, you can set your screensaver to display a custom message. As Saikat noted in his 10 creative ways to use screensavers, you can use this message to set up a reminder to take your pills, finish an important task of the day, or generate a word cloud of motivation.
4. Weather and Landscapes
If your monitor is going to be on anyway, why not turn it into a dashboard for today’s weather? That’s exactly what YoWindow does.
YoWindow is a free program for Mac and Windows that displays the current weather and predictions for the next few days. It also adds a caricaturized landscape of the great outdoors, updating according to the weather. It looks great and it’s useful, what more could you want?
We also recommend Clear Day for OS X which looks gorgeous but costs $2. On the other hand, YoWindow is free.
5. Gorgeous Time
If you want to turn your monitor into a giant clock, nothing looks as beautiful as Fliqlo. It’s a simple flip-clock design with a dark background, which looks gorgeous, especially on large TVs.
Fliqlo is completely free, works on all versions of Mac and Windows, is scalable to large resolutions, and displays the time in 12-hour or 24-hour formats.
Do you still use screensavers or have you foregone them completely? Why or why not? Show us your favorite screensavers by dropping a comment down below!
Image Credits: adityamadhav83 / Wikimedia