OK, glowing pink ooze would worry us, too

Flashback to the 1980s, when this Australian organization finally eases into computerization -- and is trying to do it right, ergonomically speaking.

Flashback to the 1980s, when this Australian organization finally eases into computerization -- and is trying to do it right, according to a pilot fish on the scene.

"We used Ericsson bright amber terminal screens that met Scandinavian occupational health standards," says fish. "There would be no X-ray emissions, nor any stray electrons floating around. With much consultation and despite great trepidation, staff were somewhat placated."

But the Ericsson monitors all die prematurely, sounding a shrill whistle as the power supplies give out. It seems they're designed for 230-volt current, while in Australia the voltage can run as high as 250V.

So with much less consultation, management installs IBM monitors with bright green phosphors against a true black background. The contrast is great, but when the brightness is turned up they can be real eyeball-scorchers.

And user complaints soon start -- but not the kind anyone is expecting.

"They said the screens were oozing pink stuff that trickled down the screen and built up on the lip of the bezel at the base of the CRTs," says fish. "Panic. Mutiny. Revolt.

"As the local guru and IT champion -- although not officially an IT person -- I inspected the offending machines, wiped the pink stuff off on a tissue and tried to demonstrate that it was just the dust that is typically attracted to CRTs by the high charge on the grid behind the phosphor."

But the users aren't buying that idea -- the pink ooze is definitely irradiated and dangerous, and besides, fish is clearly in the enemy camp.

It takes fish much staring at fluorescent lights and lots of research and documentation to identify the "pink stuff." It turns out that, technically speaking, after sitting at a monitor with a bright green phosphor, the activity of the green pigments in the user's retina is depleted. The result: There's a purplish-pink afterimage that appears if the user looks away at a white or pale surface.

And the monitor screens are coated with pale gray dust. Combine that with the afterimage effect, and voila: the pink stuff that eventually piles up at the bottom of the screen.

"We weren't believed," sighs fish. "The monitors were not, after all, as bright as a fluorescent tube. Obviously, if the darker monitors had the same effects as the fluorescent lights, they must be particularly potent.

"Solution: Provide the technophobes with monitors that have pale amber text, lousy contrast and, you guessed it, a decidedly gray background -- one that was indistinct from dust."

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