What is a screen?

 

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What is a screen?

Some tech savvy older Australians working on their desktop computers

What's coming up

In this activity, we're going to look at one of the most important parts of the computer: the screen.

You'll learn how to turn the screen on and off and adjust some of the settings.

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What a screen does

The desktop computer's screen shows what is currently happening on the computer. It is also known as the 'monitor' or the 'display'.

When you're typing a letter, for example, you'll see what you type appear on the screen. If you visit a website, you will see the website pages on the screen, so you use the screen to view what you're doing with the computer.

A close up of a computer screen showing a letter being typed
A typical computer screen with the controls highlighted by blue circles

Locating the screen controls

The screen will have several buttons or dials you can use to control the appearance of what you see on the screen. The controls can allow you to:

  • turn the screen on and off
  • adjust the picture
  • adjust the volume of speakers, if the screen has them.

Try and find the buttons on the screen you're using now. They are usually located near the bottom of the screen, often on the bottom right corner.

On and off

A screen needs to be plugged into two places: the main computer case of a desktop computer with a cable, and also into a mains power socket.

To turn the screen on, press the power button. It looks like a circle, broken by a line (you can see it highlighted in the picture with a blue circle). This button will turn the screen on or off.

A typical computer screen with the location of the power button highlighted with a blue circle
A desktop computer with the typical location of the volume control buttons highlighted with a blue circle

Volume

If your monitor has speakers, or your computer has separate speakers, there will also be volume controls. These work just like the volume controls on a TV set. The up button will make sound louder, the down button will make sound softer.

Two screens, one showing low contrast and the other showing high contrast settings

Adjusting contrast and brightness

Most screens will have controls that let you see objects more clearly on the screen.

Changing contrast levels

Adjusting the contrast can help make objects easier to see by increasing the difference between the dark and light areas.

Changing brightness levels

If the screen appears too dark for you to see objects clearly, you can increase the brightness.

Or if the screen is so bright that objects on the screen are washed out, you can lower the brightness.

Two screens, one showing low brightness and the other showing high brightness settings
A typical computer screen with the location of the camera highlighted with a blue circle

Does it have a camera?

Many computer screens come with a camera built in. This is called a web camera, or 'webcam', and is used for making video calls to other people. We'll be covering video calls in a later activity.

If the screen has a camera, you'll see it as a small pinhole on the frame of the screen, just above the display. If it's present, it means you'll be able to make video calls with the computer.

Don't worry if the screen doesn't have a camera. If you want to make video calls you can always add a separate camera to the screen.

Contrast

Let's see how much you remember!

What does the contrast control do?

It turns the screen off

Click to flip

Incorrect

Not quite. That's what the power button is for. The contrast adjusts the picture.

It makes objects on the screen stand out more

Click to flip

Correct

That's right! The contrast settings can be adjusted to make the picture look better.

Camera

Let's see how much you remember!

Where can I find the camera?

Just above the screen

Click to flip

Correct

That's right! It's usually located right above the monitor.

On the back of the screen

Click to flip

Incorrect

Not quite. It's actually on the front, just above the screen.

A computer screen showing a web page from the National Library of Australia

Congratulations!

Well done, you've come to the end of the What is a screen? activity.

The computer screen is your 'window' into what the computer is currently doing. And just like with a TV set, if you are not seeing objects clearly, you can go in and adjust the picture to your liking.

In the next activity, What is a keyboard?, we're going to look at one of the main ways you can tell the computer what to do: the keyboard.