A cathode-ray tube (CRT) is a vacuum tube containing one or more electron guns, which emit electron beams that are manipulated to display images on a phosphorescent screen. The images may represent electrical waveforms (oscilloscope), pictures (television set, computer monitor), radar targets, or other phenomena. A CRT on a television set is commonly called a picture tube. CRTs have also been used as memory devices, in which case the screen is not intended to be visible to an observer. The term cathode ray was used to describe electron beams when they were first discovered, before it was understood that what was emitted from the cathode was a beam of electrons.
In CRT television sets and computer monitors, the entire front area of the tube is scanned repeatedly and systematically in a fixed pattern called a raster. In color devices, an image is produced by controlling the intensity of each of three electron beams, one for each additive primary color (red, green, and blue) with a video signal as a reference. In modern CRT monitors and televisions the beams are bent by magnetic deflection, using a deflection yoke. Electrostatic deflection is commonly used in oscilloscopes.
A CRT is a glass envelope which is deep (i.e., long from front screen face to rear end), heavy, and fragile. The interior is evacuated to approximately 0.01 pascals (9.9×10−8 atm) to 133 nanopascals (1.31×10−12 atm), to facilitate the free flight of electrons from the gun(s) to the tube's face without scattering due to collisions with air molecules. As such, handling a CRT carries the risk of violent implosion that can hurl glass at great velocity. The face is typically made of thick lead glass or special barium-strontium glass to be shatter-resistant and to block most X-ray emissions. CRTs make up most of the weight of CRT TVs and computer monitors.
Since the early 2010s, CRTs have been superseded by flat-panel display technologies such as LCD, plasma display, and OLED displays which are cheaper to manufacture and run, as well as significantly lighter and less bulky. Flat-panel displays can also be made in very large sizes whereas 40 in (100 cm) to 45 in (110 cm) was about the largest size of a CRT.
A CRT works by electrically heating a tungsten coil which in turn heats a cathode in the rear of the CRT, causing it to emit electrons which are modulated and focused by electrodes. The electrons are steered by deflection coils or plates, and an anode accelerates them towards the phosphor-coated screen, which generates light when hit by the electrons.