Contrivance #8: Transparent Computer Screens in the Future

Have you ever noticed that all computer screens in the future are transparent?

Explain to me the logic in this. Why on earth are transparent computer screens considered better technological design than current computer screens?

Here’s how I see it: The only benefit to having a transparent screen is that people on the other side can see through it. So if you’re trying to share your work with someone else, they can see it, albeit reversed.

That said, consider all the things that actually make transparent computer screens considerably worse than even an average modern-day screen:

  1. People on the other side can see through it. Think about this for two seconds and then tell me if you want the average passerby in your office seeing what’s on your computer screen at any given time. I’m not saying you’re looking at porn at the office, but odds are next to those spreadsheets and e-mail, you have Facebook or open in the side window.
  2. Transparency means lower quality. In movies, the only graphics on transparent computer screens are blue and green lines and text. So, no more 8-million color HD screens. Once you go transparent, you’re jumping back to the Apple 2E in terms of monitor quality. At least you can still play Oregon Trail in the future.
  3. Transparency means more distractions. Picture yourself trying to enter data into a spreadsheet on your computer. Now picture yourself doing that while people walk around in the background, directly behind your screen. It would be incredibly distracting.
Have you ever noticed any other examples of future technology that would actually be a huge step backwards?

7 thoughts on “Contrivance #8: Transparent Computer Screens in the Future”

  1. Surely anyone who’s ever watched the 1993 Sylvester Stallone box office smash “Demolition Man” has been wondering for almost 2 decades how the hell you wipe your ass with 3 seashells. (For anyone who hasn’t seen this movie, the future world is appalled that Sly would ask for toilet paper rather than using the 3 seashells.)

    I searched for the answer today for the first time, and this is what I found.

    Quite frankly, this doesn’t seem like an improvement; it seems like a terrible denigration of our mollusk population.

    • Wow, this is the first I’ve heard of the seashell substitution for toilet paper. And as funny as it is, I’m never going to be able to shake the image on that link from my mind. Well played, MacDougall. Well played.

  2. Computer screens are transparent in futuristic movies not because it makes more sense in the future, but because it makes more sense in the movie. When composing the set up of a scene a transparent screen isn’t covering up half the viewing area and allows the viewer to see what’s happening on the other side, whether that’s action or the actor’s body language. Either one is information that the director is allowing you to see that you couldn’t with a standard monitor. It’s a compositional choice.

    Besides, who says that a transparent monitor would show the other side backwards in the future. That’s just silly 😛

    • Christine–That’s a really good point. It’s still a contrivance, but it makes sense cinematically.

      Similarly, if you take a close look at the street in almost any movie that has an outdoor scene at night, you’ll notice that the street is wet, as if it always just rained. Apparently wet streets photograph much better at night than dry streets.

      • They reflect light better. Which makes the darkness more apparent.

        But, I don’t agree with your comment on this. I’m going to start counting night street scenes from now on.

        This could be misleading though, because with editing these days you can shoot during the day then change it to look like night… which means dry, day, and less lighting issues. #technologywin? At least the cast and crew are happier (not having to screw up their sleep schedule for night shoots)

        • Count away, my friend. I’m a movie novice, so I can’t tell when they’ve shot a night scene during the day. That’s pretty cool they can change that post-production, though.


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