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The cathode ray tube (CRT) is a vacuum tube containing an electron gun (a source of electrons or electron emitter) and a fluorescent screen used to view images. It has a means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam onto the fluorescent screen to create the images. The image may represent electrical waveforms (oscilloscope), pictures (television, computer monitor), radar targets and others. CRTs have also been used as memory devices, in which case the visible light emitted from the fluoresecent material (if any) is not intended to have significant meaning to a visual observer (though the visible pattern on the tube face may cryptically represent the stored data).
The CRT uses an evacuated glass envelope which is large, deep (i.e. long from front screen face to rear end), fairly heavy, and relatively fragile. As a matter of safety, the face is typically made of thick lead glass so as to be highly shatter-resistant and to block most X-ray emissions, particularly if the CRT is used in a consumer product.
CRTs have largely been superseded by more modern display technologies such as LCD, plasma display, and OLED, which as of 2012 offer lower manufacturing and distribution costs.
Color tubes use three different phosphors which emit red, green, and blue light respectively. They are packed together in stripes (as in aperture grille designs) or clusters called "triads" (as in shadow mask CRTs). Color CRTs have three electron guns, one for each primary color, arranged either in a straight line or in an equilateral triangular configuration (the guns are usually constructed as a single unit). (The triangular configuration is often called "delta-gun", based on its relation to the shape of the Greek letter delta.) A grille or mask absorbs the electrons that would otherwise hit the wrong phosphor. A shadow mask tube uses a metal plate with tiny holes, placed so that the electron beam only illuminates the correct phosphors on the face of the tube. Another type of color CRT uses an aperture grille to achieve the same result.
As shown in the image -
Cutaway rendering of a color CRT:
1. Three Electron guns (for red, green, and blue phosphor dots)
2. Electron beams
3. Focusing coils
4. Deflection coils
5. Anode connection
6. Mask for separating beams for red, green, and blue part of displayed image
7. Phosphor layer with red, green, and blue zones
8. Close-up of the phosphor-coated inner side of the screen
Dot pitch defines the maximum resolution of the display, assuming delta-gun CRTs. In these, as the scanned resolution approaches the dot pitch resolution, moiré appears, as the detail being displayed is finer than what the shadow mask can render. Aperture grille monitors do not suffer from vertical moiré, however, because their phosphor stripes have no vertical detail. In smaller CRTs, these strips maintain position by themselves, but larger aperture grille CRTs require one or two crosswise (horizontal) support strips.