Posted: September 21, 2010 by jellymann in customization

The Desktop Background, artwork behind your windows, something you see when nothing is running, a cool look so people say “that’s cool” when they see your PC idle… whatever it is to you.

It has been 35 years since the first “Wallpaper” came out. Introduced by Xerox as a way to distinguish the desktop from window interiors on a black-and-white monitor. Below is the first wallpaper in the world, first appearing on Xerox’s experimental “Officetalk” system.

Apple followed soon after with a denser pattern, made possible by their non-interlaced monitor, which wouldn’t have worked on the Officetalk.

The term wallpaper is more appropriate for the original tiled backgrounds that older operating systems. Windows had, up until 98 and ME, an extremely simple and primitive pattern editor, which allowed the user to make a two-colour, 8×8 tiled wallpaper.

These days, wallpapers have been appropriately renamed to “Desktop Background” or “Desktop Picture” on Windows and Mac OS X respectively. No longer a boring repetitive tiled pattern, the modern desktop has become a canvas for digital art.

deviantART has a section dedicated to wallpapers. But what makes a wallpaper different to all the other art on DA? Wouldn’t it be easier to just post wallpapers in the appropriate categories along with all the other art?

A couple of things answer these questions. Firstly, and most obvious, is the size. Computer screens are typically a 16:10 or 16:9 aspect ratio, which means the wallpaper artist must create his art accordingly. Sure you could find any picture off DA, resize it, and set it as your desktop wallpaper, ignoring any loss of quality or the possibility of a missing part of the scene. Wallpapers on DA usually come between 1440×900 and 1920×1200, as well as zip files containing a range of sizes so you can choose one that corresponds to your screen.

The second thing that sets wallpaper art apart from other art is a little tricky. I might be wrong here, as this is my own opinion, but wallpapers usually have a different design approach than non-wallpaper art. Most wallpaper art is digital, and are drawn specifically with the desktop in mind, and not as a print to be framed an hung on a wall. Photographic wallpapers also have differences to other photographs, and in my experience are heavily edited to be made sharper, more vibrant, and completely void of any noise.

Another question I would like to ask (and this is open for readers to comment on) is this: What makes a good wallpaper? What I mean is, something that a user will often see while working on their computer that will affect his/her moods in some way or another to increase productivity and overall happiness while working. What kind of design is best in situations such as these? Does it differ from person to person, depending on the task at hand? Does changing the wallpaper change mood and productivity in some way? I’d like some feedback on this.

There are also other forms of desktop backgrounds, which take things further from the original analogy of the “wallpaper”. Animated backgrounds, interactive backgrounds, video backgrounds, as well as some other cool things like EarthDesk. I question whether these are a waste of system resources or not. I guess if you have the extra power, you may as well spice up your desktop in such a way, otherwise it’s really not necessary.

A lot of people set their background to photos they have taken themselves, sometimes of family. On the other hand, you could just completely ditch the background and have a solid colour. One of the things that annoy me intensely is how some people incorrectly refer to their wallpaper as the “screensaver”, especially common when talking about their cellphone background. AARRRGG!!

I could still rant on pointlessly about wallpapers, but this is what it boils down to:
What makes a good wallpaper? Why?

Oh and one last thing, the most infamous wallpaper known to man:

P.S. For the perfect wallpaper, check out the stuff at Simple Desktops.

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