Old-school Dark Mode

Filed under Musings;

Last year, Apple introduced a new display option in macOS Mojave: Dark Mode, an alternative color scheme that emphasizes dark tones and minimizes white light. Reading on backlit screens is hard on the eyes — just compare an iPad to an e-ink Kindle. Apple’s theorizes that essentially inverting the default display will be easier on the eyes.

There’s just two problems with that. First, science says Dark Mode achieves the opposite of its intended effect. Mark LaPlante pointed me to this TidBITS article, in which Adam Engst of explains:

… a dark-on-light (positive polarity) display like a Mac in Light Mode provides better performance in focusing of the eye, identifying letters, transcribing letters, text comprehension, reading speed, and proofreading performance, and at least some older studies suggest that using a positive polarity display results in less visual fatigue and increased visual comfort.

The second problem, and one Engst briefly acknowledges: Apple’s earliest products already had a "Dark Mode", back when Apple II and Macintosh computers used monochrome monitors. It was considered an evolution to move from that to full-color, lighter displays. Why revert now? Sure, I get a kick out of using a monochrome display on my Mac every now and then; I even wrote a Juiced.GS article about WriteRoom, a modern word processor that can easily emulate the appearance of AppleWorks Classic. But it’s not a work environment I’d want to make a habit of.

AppleWorks’ Dark Mode seems awfully familiar…

But by recognizing the disadvantages of a monochrome display, some interesting thought experiments result. Someone could arrive at KansasFest announcing that they’re releasing Dark Mode for the Apple II, and ta-da, it’s the default display — hilarious. But to be earnest, what would it take to invert the Apple II display, producing a near-equivalent to the Mac’s "Light Mode"? Or are there any 8-bit word processors that already use dark text on a white background?

If I were writing a Juiced.GS article, I would determine the answers to these questions and present you with my findings. But for a weekly blog post, I’m content to leave it as an exercise for the reader — and as a potential HackFest entry for the writer.

  1. This past week, I created a list of word processors/editors for Apple II: http://hoop-la.ca/apple2/edit/

    I noticed that the “Mac-like” Apple IIGS word processors are black on white. Mouse Write, also “Mac-like” and not specifically for the Apple IIGS, is black on white.

  2. What a timely list—thank you for sharing!