I was thinking about handheld screens recently – don’t ask – and a question occurred to me: when did everyone decide that, yes, widescreen definitely is the answer?
There’s only one way to answer that question: a scatter graph of screen width by year. WITH A TREND LINE.
Look at that: what a trend line! Thanks to him, the gradual shift from nearly square screens (1:1) to widescreen (1.78:1 being the standard 16:9 widescreen TV aspect ratio) is clear to see. What a hero.
In fact, there was a square screen, on the not particularly legendary early ’90s Supervision – Quickshot or Watara, depending on your persuasion. The Game Boy and Game Gear were barely more rectangular, mind, at 1.11:1.
Around the same time, the Atari Lynx was being much more ambitious. The 1.57:1 aspect ratio nicely illustrates that: there’s nothing closer to widescreen on our graph until Sony with the PSP, 15 years later.
Around 2000, the next generation of handhelds started to move to slightly wider screens. Nintendo were strange ones around this time, the DS retreating back to 1.33:1 from the Game Boy Advance’s 1.5:1. They got back in line with the 3DS though, and a more respectable 1.67:1.
In fact, over the last few years it’s the iPhone 4 which looks most anachronistic, matching the Game Boy Advance’s aspect ratio of 1.5:1. Again, Apple got back in line though, with 1.78:1 – which looks close to an industry standard now – for the iPhone 5.
Analysis over. Source data follows, if that’s your thing.