Do you remember the first time you hit the degauss on a CRT?

Sony's GDM-FW900 was one of the last great CRTs
(Image credit: Sony)

There are loads of things PC gamers used to have to do to actually play games. Things that seem completely preposterous to us today. Passthrough cables from your Matrox 2D graphics card to your 3dfx Voodoo2 so that you could play Tomb Raider (it was the pinnacle, man). And there's a certain school of thought that says unless you've had to play around with HIMEM.SYS in MS-DOS, then can you really call yourself a PC gamer (yes, you absolutely can, that was a ridiculous time that we should all try and forget).

One thing that is sure to reignite old, tired synapses though, was brought up by this recent tweet: 

Ah, the simple joys of degaussing a CRT monitor. Those of us that are old enough will be able to hear it just from reading the words. Even watching the short clip below was enough to convince me that my old CRT screen was, in many ways, actually better than it really was. 

And yes, degaussing is something we had to do now and again just to stop our screens from warping. That and handling physical media, because our internet connections sounded like we were torturing robots.

Younger readers are probably sitting there wondering what the hell is going on here, I know our Jacob certainly is. Essentially CRT monitors work by magic, but of the scientific kind you can wrap your head around. CRTs work by firing electrons at a phosphor screen, through something called a shadow mask. Now this mask could get magnetised, which would subsequently warp the image being produced. 

That's why you needed to degauss. When you hit the 'Degauss' button, it passes a high current through a coil around this mask, which resets the magnetic field, and stops the warping. 

And it goes a little something like this:

The electronic buzz, that shuddering, wibbly image. It all harks back to a different time, at once more simple and yet somehow more sci-fi. Try and make a flat screen monitor wobble like that and you'll be picking liquid crystals out of the carpet for weeks.

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.