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Re: What is VGA doing in CSS?

From: Bert Bos <Bert.Bos@sophia.inria.fr>
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 00:21:59 +0200 (MET DST)
To: John Fremlin <johnfremlin7@usa.net>
cc: www-style@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.02.9808302319240.10806-100000@www43.inria.fr>
On Sun, 23 Aug 1998, John Fremlin wrote:

> CSS level 1 and 2 recommendations: "These 16 colors are
> taken from the Windows VGA palette, and their RGB values are
> not defined in this specification"
> 1) Why not?
> 2) What if you're not using Microsoft(r) Windows?
> 3) What if you're not using PC hardware (so
> you don't *have* a VGA?

In fact, HTML 4.0 defines them as particular sRGB values, so it seems CSS2
differs from CSS1, in that the colors are no longer undefined.

"VGA" is only mentioned because that's what inspired the choice for these
16 colors. "VGA" represents more or less the absolute minimum for a color
screen. There aren't many screens that can display fewer than 16 colors.
Other than that, there is no relation with VGA, and they will work on
every color screen.

Some more history: the Mosaic browser was first implemented under X (the
most common window system for Unix), and most X workstations happen to
have a long list of rather fanciful colornames stored somewhere. The
standard graphics library for X uses that list if it can find it. Later,
when browsers appeared on Windows and Mac, the programmers discovered that
some people had become so attached to certain colornames, that they had to
port the list of color names to the new platforms. Both Netscape and IE
are derived from Mosaic, and they inherited the list. (That's why under X,
you can use "peru" or "burlywood" in every application, but under Windows
it only works in certain browsers.)

However, these color names have no relation to the so-called
"browser-safe" palette, and not many people are able to predict a color
from the X name, so their use is dying out. Therefore we decided not to
include a long list of colors in CSS. Besides, requiring it would mean
that certain small devices would have a hard time being CSS conformant,
because of the amount of memory the list would take.

Just 16 names were provided for people who don't really care about the
exact colors, just that they are different. They are easy for an initial
style. After a while, when you start fine-tuning the layout, you'll
probably end up with a set of colors that is found by trial and error, and
that you would have a hard time naming by any specific color name anyway.

  Bert Bos                                ( W 3 C ) http://www.w3.org/
  http://www.w3.org/people/bos/                              W3C/INRIA
  bert@w3.org                             2004 Rt des Lucioles / BP 93
  +33 (0)4 92 38 76 92            06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Sunday, 30 August 1998 18:22:21 UTC

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