Something oddly geeky just occurred to me this morning. You’re probably no longer surprised at my geeky thoughts but it’s still something I found mildly interesting. I’m not trying to be racist but I asked myself a question: How many bits would we need to colour every possible race on earth? More directly: How many bits do we need to colour every possible race in Malaysia? More importantly: Why do we want to colour the races?
Computer Colour History
Computer displays started with a 1-bit monochrome display, essentially coloured or non-coloured. These came in different varieties, depending on your computer system. The most popular ones were white-black and green-black.
In the early 1980s, people realised that this was very limiting and increased the colours to a 4-bit display, which could represent 16 fixed colours. Every programmer who started off programming in the 80s (me included) has got this 16 colour palette burned into their heads. This fixed palette was useful for highlighting text but not so useful for displaying images. There were other palettes available but these 16 were the most commonly used.
After a while, this still did not please our senses. So, in the late 1980s, computers came with 8-bit displays, which could represent 256 colours. However, the palette was not fixed and the 256 colours could be customised. Many entertainment products exploited this new colour space to display vibrant graphics. Many games were proudly advertised as supporting 256 colours and cartoon colour characters bloomed.
But still, our hunger for visually stimulating graphical inputs were not sated. Then in the 1990s, came 16-bit displays, which allowed 65+ thousand colours. Now, we were getting somewhere. It was now possible to view photos and movies with realism. This coincided with the boom in multi-media applications to exploit this colour space.
But some visual pundits were still not satisfied. So, 24-bit displays were quickly introduced, which allowed the display of 16.7+ million colours. This should keep anyone happy for a long time. Colours were represented in an additive model with 8-bits of red, green and blue intensities.
Finally, as most computers are 32-bit today, they represent colours using the RGB(A) colour model. In addition to the RGB colours, the last 8-bits are often used to represent transparency.
Now, if we accept the fact that it takes at least 2 individuals to even begin to form a distinct race, we will arrive at our answers. For the world, we would only need a 32-bit representation, which can represent 4.29+ billion possible colours. For Malaysia, we would only need a 24-bit representation. Both types of colour representations have been available on modern computers for years. As evidenced from the series of photos, high colour depths are important so that we can see things clearly and enjoy the vibrant dynamism of different colours.
However, if we were to look at recent developments in our country, we will soon realise that our federal government is still stuck in the graphical stone age. In order to protect the rakyat from being victimised by opposition state governments, they are going to channel development funds through MARA, which is only interested in helping one group of people (1-bit). Our former 2nd Finance Minister has also recently called on Malays to emulate the progressive thinking of Jewish and Chinese societies in terms of development (2-bits).
In conclusion, I think that there is nothing wrong with having a mind coloured by race, as long as it’s of a sufficiently high colour depth. It’s when the colour depth is low (such as that presently employed by the federal government), that we have trouble recognising things for what they are in this world. I would sincerely hope that everyone embraces high colour depths and enjoy the richly colourful world that we live in.
What do you think of this odd thought?