4:3

Jef Raskin, Feb. 16, 1981:

The screen resolution is 384 dots across by 256 dots vertically, which is close enough to the TV standard 4:3 aspect ratio so that little screen space is wasted if the monitor is adjusted so that dots are on a square grid. Human factors considerations shows that the ideal size of such a screen is very close to the viewing area of a standard 9″ television CRT. Bandwidth considerations limited the 6809-based system to 256 by 256 dots, which would have been optimally displayed on a 7″ tube.

This is from exactly 30 years ago. And the interesting thing is that Raskin and the designers and engineers at Apple today seem to agree. The near 4:3 aspect ratio is intriguing. According to Raskin, Apple chose an aspect ratio that was close to the TV standard, which was 4:3. It’s a bit more complicated today and in my opinion there really is no TV standard as in TV content. But if you look at the entire world, I’d guess that the majority of TV viewers are still at 4:3 with only advanced economies quickly shifting to wide-format HD. The Macintosh revolutionized personal computing.

Today, the 4:3 aspect ratio can be found in the iPad, which can be argued is revolutionizing personal computing again. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Between the first Macintosh and the latest iPad are thirty years. But the 4:3 aspect ratio remain the same. And both are revolutionary.