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Old 10-04-2012, 11:00 AM   #1
maxbookworm
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Why do people get so confused over the term "backllight"?

Case in point:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/te...view.html?_r=0

Quote:
“Oh, yeah?” says Amazon’s Kindle team. “Well, you know the Nook with a self-illuminated screen that you introduced in April? We have one with a better backlight. Take that!”
It seems a pretty intuitive term to me. Backlighting means it lights up from the *back*. I'm especially surprised to see this from someone who's entire job is writing about electronic devices.

Oh well, back to your regularly scheduled program...
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Old 10-04-2012, 11:01 AM   #2
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Because they're thick? As you say, the term does appear to be self-explanatory - a backlight is a light that's behind the screen.
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Old 10-04-2012, 11:02 AM   #3
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Probably because all the tablets and smartphones these tech guys usually focus on are all backlit, it's the norm. "E-ink e-readers, hmmmm don't know as much about them but they'll just be the same, right?"

Edit: or as HarryT says, they're thick. That's probably it in a nutshell.
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Old 10-04-2012, 11:12 AM   #4
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I'll go with Harry's polite phrasing.
It's not as if there is any shortage of HDTVs with *side* lighting. So anybody writing about consumer electronics should know at least the difference between side-lighting and backlighting.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Because they're thick? As you say, the term does appear to be self-explanatory - a backlight is a light that's behind the screen.
Agreed, seems the average person these days is an idjit!
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Because they're thick? As you say, the term does appear to be self-explanatory - a backlight is a light that's behind the screen.
Agreed, although part of their problem in general verbal laziness.

The laziness prevents them from considering a two word term (e.g. "self illuminated") when there is a single word term available, even when the single word isn't accurate, and prevents them from searching from an appropriate single word term (e.g. "frontlit"). It's the verbal equivalent of when people need to pry something open and grab a screwdriver instead of an appropriate pry bar.
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Old 10-04-2012, 01:35 PM   #7
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The more interesting question is whether backlit vs. frontlit actually makes a difference. I understand that people claim a frontlit e-reader screen is easier on the eyes than a (backlit) LED. But, assuming both are set to the same level of brightness, I wonder whether that is true and, if so, what should cause this difference.
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Old 10-04-2012, 01:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guma View Post
The more interesting question is whether backlit vs. frontlit actually makes a difference. I understand that people claim a frontlit e-reader screen is easier on the eyes than a (backlit) LED. But, assuming both are set to the same level of brightness, I wonder whether that is true and, if so, what should cause this difference.
Off the top of my head, I'd say that polarization may make a difference.
The other thing that comes to mind is that front-lit eink devices can drive their brightness lower than most (if not all) LCD devices. (Front-lit eink displays can go to zero lighting and still be readable.)

The two most likely reasons for *some* people having issues with extended reading off LCD screens are the much higher absolute brightness and absolute contrast. It is possible to have too much of an otherwise good thing.
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:01 PM   #9
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They're not confused over the term(s), they just don't care what term they use. Especially when the average consumer isn't really all that interested in where the light's coming from. The distinction just isn't really all that important in the grand scheme of things (and those to whom the distinction is important will understand what's meant regardless of the terminology).
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
The other thing that comes to mind is that front-lit eink devices can drive their brightness lower than most (if not all) LCD devices. (Front-lit eink displays can go to zero lighting and still be readable.)

The two most likely reasons for *some* people having issues with extended reading off LCD screens are the much higher absolute brightness and absolute contrast. It is possible to have too much of an otherwise good thing.
Well ... if I had to make a guess then I would assume that non-lit eink-screens (and good old books) are relatively easy on the eyes because, unless a very close-mounted reading light is used, the screen does not stand out in brightness compared to its environments whereas it is possible (and quite common) to read on a self-lit display in a dark or dimly lit room where the display itself stands out as the brightest light source.
If it actually is this brightness-differential between screen and environments that causes eyestrain it should not matter whether an offending display is front- or back-lit.
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:22 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
It's not as if there is any shortage of HDTVs with *side* lighting. So anybody writing about consumer electronics should know at least the difference between side-lighting and backlighting.
The side light of HDTV is still a back light though. The light source may be on the sides, the light itself still goes through the back of the display. It can't actually go through the sides (light can't pass sideways into a display).

No one really cares about technicalities. Maybe backlight is simply a term to describe the light source of a display. Same way blackboards aren't black but green etc.
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:51 PM   #12
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No one really cares about technicalities. Maybe backlight is simply a term to describe the light source of a display. Same way blackboards aren't black but green etc.
Exactly - we still talk about the "limelight," even though lights using actual lime haven't been used for probably 150 years.
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Old 10-04-2012, 03:04 PM   #13
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"Backlight" is the Kleenex of illumination terms.

*Edited to add: Kleenex is a widely available brand of facial tissue within the United States. The brand name has since become a generic term for any facial tissue, no matter who makes it.

Last edited by LovesMacs; 10-04-2012 at 03:09 PM. Reason: Added explanation of Kleenex
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Old 10-04-2012, 03:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guma View Post
If it actually is this brightness-differential between screen and environments that causes eyestrain it should not matter whether an offending display is front- or back-lit.
This has me worried in my wait for my Paperwhite. I'm afraid that the spillover from my K3's case light, while problematic in some ways, was actually a good thing, allowing my eyes to adjust to the overall lighting environment.
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:34 PM   #15
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If it actually is this brightness-differential between screen and environments that causes eyestrain it should not matter whether an offending display is front- or back-lit.
It shouldn't, except the light that comes out of an LCD display has been polarized so most has the same polarity. Polarized light by itself can cause eyestrain:
http://sunglasses.lifetips.com/cat/6...ses/index.html

Quote:
When light is reflected off a smooth surface like a flat road or water, it becomes polarized horizontally. The polarized light can cause eyestrain and fatigue.
With frontlights, the lightguide diffuses the LED light which then reflects off the eink screen. The light coming out of the screen may or not be polarized. (I haven't seen anything stating either.) So there may in fact be a difference in polarization. (Easy to test: somebody with polarized glasses and a Nook Glow or KPW out there?)

Normally, polarized lenses are a *great* thing; I use them outdoors myself.
But I'm not sensitive to LCD eyestrain.
Others, however?

It is like CRT refresh-rate and fluorescent-light eyestrain; some people are more sensitive than others. And some people are more sensitive to polarized light eyestrain.

Nothing is ever as simple as it appears at "first glance".
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