Yesterday some friends of mine came by to get my opinion on a 2013 Volvo XC90 they are considering buying; overall I liked it. It has a tailgate, after all! But, strangely, what really caught my eye was on the small center stack display of the infotainment system, where some Volvo designer did the best they could to render the car’s portrait in meaty, chunky pixels, and I for one love the clunky result.
I’m not exactly sure of the resolution of the screen, but I bet it’s something like 120×80 or around that. It’s something close to an early Nintendo Game Boy, with its square 160×144 pixel screen, but lacks a crucial quality the Game Boy had: grayscale.
A Game Boy could do four shades of gray (well, really shades of kinda baby poop green) but this Volvo screen can only turn pixels on or off, which makes the image even more impressive, with a lot of clever dithering effects to get some kind of shading.
This screen was kind of backwards even in 2013 – even my wife’s 2010 VW Tiguan has a full-color LCD center stack screen – but I’m still glad to see a reminder of the days when putting a recognizable image on a screen was an actual challenge, not just something easy and expected.
Here’s to you, uncredited early-to-mid-2000s Volvo UX designer!