Apple’s Pixel Revolution

John Gruber pens an excellent post on pixel resolution, and surmises how the new Apple MacBook Pro with retina display is the best computer Apple’s ever made:

Today’s pre-retina Mac displays are excellent, especially when judged by historical standards. Brighter, more vibrant colors, and — again, by historical standards — smaller, sharper pixels. A regular 15-inch MacBook Pro ships with a 1440 × 900 pixel display at about 110 pixels per inch, and can be configured with a 1680 × 1050 display at about 130 pixels per inch. Both the 11- and 13-inch MacBooks Air sport resolutions of roughly 130 pixels per inch. Far beneath the retina threshold, but much nicer than our sub-100-PPI displays of the 90s, to say nothing of the mere 72 PPI display on the original 1984 Macintosh.

But we went from 72 PPI in 1984 to 132 PPI in 2012 gradually — a few more pixels per inch every few years. Along the way there was never a moment of celebration, no single great leap forward pixel-density-wise. Even the shift from bulky CRTs to slim flatscreen LCDs didn’t bring about a significant upgrade in terms of pixel size.

But now this. The 15-inch MacBook Pro With Retina Display. This is a boom. A revolution in resolution. The display I’ve been craving ever since I first saw high-resolution laser printer output.

In the footnotes, John Gruber notes that the 15-inch MacBook Pro puts him in a dilemma: it’s too big a laptop to lug around as a travel companion. I’m in the same position. I played around with the retina MacBook Pro when it came out, but I much prefer my 13-inch non-retina MacBook Air for its weight and portability. But when Apple releases the 13-inch retina MacBook Air, I am going to have a hard time holding out upgrading…

Color Printing Reaches the Ultimate Resolution

This piece in Nature made my jaw drop:

The highest possible resolution images — about 100,000 dots per inch — have been achieved, and in full-colour, with a printing method that uses tiny pillars a few tens of nanometres tall. The method, described today in Nature Nanotechnology1, could be used to print tiny watermarks or secret messages for security purposes, and to make high-density data-storage discs.

Each pixel in these ultra-resolution images is made up of four nanoscale posts capped with silver and gold nanodisks. By varying the diameters of the structures (which are tens of nanometres) and the spaces between them, it’s possible to control what colour of light they reflect. Researchers at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore used this effect, called structural colour, to come up with a full palette of colours. As a proof of principle, they printed a 50×50-micrometre version of the ‘Lena’ test image, a richly coloured portrait of a woman that is commonly used as a printing standard.

Optical Resolution Image testing with “Lena”. Click to see larger size.

That’s the summary of this paper, whose abstract describes the optical limit of resolution:

The highest possible resolution for printed colour images is determined by the diffraction limit of visible light. To achieve this limit, individual colour elements (or pixels) with a pitch of 250 nm are required, translating into printed images at a resolution of ~100,000 dots per inch (d.p.i.). However, methods for dispensing multiple colourants or fabricating structural colour through plasmonic structures have insufficient resolution and limited scalability. Here, we present a non-colourant method that achieves bright-field colour prints with resolutions up to the optical diffraction limit. Colour information is encoded in the dimensional parameters of metal nanostructures, so that tuning their plasmon resonance determines the colours of the individual pixels. Our colour-mapping strategy produces images with both sharp colour changes and fine tonal variations, is amenable to large-volume colour printing via nanoimprint lithography, and could be useful in making microimages for security, steganography, nanoscale optical filters, and high-density spectrally encoded optical data storage.

Also, I just discovered that you can read PDF papers/articles in ReadCube. Try it for the paper above here.