Blog: May 2015

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

That damned flicker is everywhere now

When I started using computers it was via terminals -- text only, amber (if I had my preference; green was also out there), VT100s. Aside from the fact that I'd've preferred the text be just a bit bigger, I never had problems arising from that.

Technology moved on and terminals were replaced by (CRT) monitors. Those were harder on my eyes (I got headaches frequently), and eventually I connected it to the 60Hz flicker in the screen. Like fluorescent lights, the CRTs flickered visibly and that was a problem. With both lights and CRTs, it took me a while to learn that most people don't see the flicker; I thought it was just a thing we all had to cope with, but most people don't notice it at all and it doesn't hurt them. (The first time I mentioned being bothered by it to a coworker, he thought I was making it up.)

Once CRTs and display drivers got better, I could raise the flicker rate and make my problem go away. (75-80Hz fixed it for me.) Then CRTs got replaced by LCDs, a different technology, and my flicker-sensitivity problems were reduced to places with fluorescent tubes. While those have invaded some workplaces (forcing me to negotiate alternate lighting with people who sit near me), they were otherwise relegated largely to basements. It's not attractive lighting, so these fixtures don't show up in, say, stores and restaurants.

Then came the damned CFLs.

For the last couple years I've been noticing more and more problems with flickering lights in public places. It's frustrating to have to ask to be re-seated in a restaurant, sometimes more than once. Moving to the next table over rarely solves the problem; a flickering light anywhere in my field of vision (including reflections) is a problem. It's been getting worse.

And I finally figured out why -- it's because those lightbulbs are CFLs now. Proprietors of public establishments installed them a few years ago, when incandescent bulbs started to become harder to get, and those bulbs are now mid-life and flickering more. (I don't know why age should affect flickering, but it seems to.)

So the next several years are going to get more and more miserable for people like me. I sure hope that an alternate technology is affordable and seen as advantageous by the time proprietors are ready to replace their long-lasting lightbulbs again.

I suspect the answer is "no", but I need to ask my ophthalmologist if there's anything I can do to reduce the effects on me when I can't avoid them.

We do use CFLs in a few places in our house, like hallways, but not in places where I actually spend time. That's not just because of the flicker, but also because the light color from CFLs is wrong. We'll continue to use incandescents until some other technology (LEDs?) becomes practical.

Omer, day 30

The view last night:

full moon, shadowy tree visible in foreground

full moon with tree more visible

It looked even prettier in the twilight sky, but I didn't have a chance to take a picture then.