It’s hard to comprehend how pixels translate into information. Last week, I purchased a 24 megapixel camera and a new “retina display” iPad with “only” a 3.1 megapixel screen. Although app vendors are scrambling to come up with a truly impressive retina display application for the iPad, none really tell the story. I think I’ve got them all beat…
65 Pages on One Screen
In the interest of science, literature, and pointless exercises, I give you perhaps the ultimate demonstration of the power of the new iPad’s retina display: 75% of Hamlet by William Shakespeare on screen at once, and readable if you look very close!
The new iPad’s retina display measures 2048 pixels by 1536 pixels. Using a 4×6 font like Tom Thumb, a screen of this resolution can display 512 by 256 characters. That’s 131,072 characters on-screen at once, or about 22,000 words!
Of course these words really aren’t that readable. Each character measures just 0.38 mm by 0.58 mm on screen. That’s insanely small. Crazy small. But readable, at least when my 40 year old eyes are a few inches from the screen.
Placing this much information on the screen at once is astonishing.
In the case of Hamlet and the new iPad, we get all the way to Act IV, Scene VI, where Horatio receives Hamlet’s letter regarding Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This scene is found on page 65 in my printed copy of the text, so that’s 65 pages of text on a 9.7 inch screen. Amazing!
On your own new iPad, tap the image above. Then tap and hold and select “Save Image” to copy it to your camera roll. It’s just 554 KB, so it won’t cramp your style! Then you can view it at 100% size or (as I did) set it to be your lock screen image for giggles!
For this wonderfully pointless demonstration, I started with the Project Gutenberg text of Hamlet. I replaced all of the double carriage returns with a pilcrow, or paragraph mark. Next, I replaced any single carriage return with a space, since most were between continuous lines of text. I then eliminated any superfluous spaces and replace all doubled dashes with a singlet.
I opened this text file in TextEdit, since it is extremely easy to work with. I formatted the text at 6 points with a fabulous 4×6 fixed font called “Tom Thumb” by Robey Pointer (based on a font by Brian Swetland). I previously used FontForge to convert Robey’s BDF to an OS X-compatible dfont package.
Creating a PNG required a little bit of finesse: I first created a 2048×1536 image in Preview. Since my 27-inch iMac’s vertical resolution is actually smaller than the new iPad’s, I had to carefully cut and paste two separate sections into my Preview image. But I got everything lined up pixel-perfect at last!
Tom Thumb is a monospaced font, and there is still some wasted whitespace. I imagine one could finesse more of Hamlet onto the screen, possibly even the whole work if one was careful. I was able to fit the whole thing on my 27″ iMac, but that screen is almost nine times larger than the new iPad!
3.1 megapixels is a whole lot of display. If the new iPad screen packs in enough pixels to display 65 pages of Hamlet at once, imagine what else it can show! The next time someone says “what’s so great about that screen” all I have to do is read them a scene or two from my lock screen.