They’re sometimes amusing, they’re sometimes entertaining, they sometimes show us the word of the day but what are screen savers for?

Before the proliferation of Liquid Crystal Display technology, most computer monitors used Cathode Ray Tubes to display images. These screens used an electron gun to shoot beams of electrons (also known as cathode rays) at a glass surface covered in phosphors. These phosphors would then glow in different colors depending on the desired results.

The problem
It’s called Burn-in! Burn-in is what happens when a single picture stays on the screen long enough to degrade or change the nature of the surface where it’s hitting. In effect burn-in creates a permanent “ghostly” shape of whatever was on the screen at the time. Burn-in wouldn’t occur during regular use but leave your computer alone for a few hours and you’d be left with a permanent text document over top of whatever else you were doing next.

The solution
To prevent the effects of burn-in a new program was invented: The screensaver!
Now whenever you forgot to return to your keyboard you wouldn’t accidentally destroy a piece of equipment which at the time could easily set you back a thousand dollars! Screensavers activated themselves minutes after leaving the computer alone and showed a set of changing pictures or images to give the phosphors some variety. They literally saved your screen from becoming burnt-in, hence the name.

Screensavers today
Today screensavers have the potential to make a return. While we’ve done away with CRTs in favor of LCDs we’ve since been searching for a new type of screen to replace LCDs. One of these types of screens is the OLED, or “Organic Light Emitting Diode” type. This type of screen can be burnt in as well though it is much harder to burn it in permanently due to the nature of the technology and how modern devices handle them.

Changing your screensaver
You can change your screensaver on your computer by following these steps:

On Windows 10:
Click on the Windows logo in the bottom left of the screen or press the windows key on the keyboard.
There won’t be any obvious place to type something in but begin typing anyways. Type in the word “screensaver”
Click on the button that says “Change Screensaver”
Here you can select your desired screensaver by clicking on the box in the middle of the window and then clicking on your desired screensaver.
Some screensavers have additional settings. Clicking on the Settings button after having selected the Photos screensaver will allow you to browse and select a specific folder for the pictures it should use
On Mac os Big Sur:
Click on the apple menu in the top right of the screen.
Click on System Preferences
Click on “Desktop & Screen Saver”
Click on “Screen Saver”
You can then choose a screen saver from the list on the left.

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