Screensavers causing massive global pollution: Telstra

Midnight is according to ancient lore the witching hour. It’s when ghouls ghosts and computer viruses are at their most potent; a time of ill feelings and odd superstitions. And as it transpires if you were a Telstra employee working a bit of overtime last Monday also the time you may have found your screen going black.

No warding of ghoulies or goblins here however — it’s part of a company initiative to go green by eliminating a standardised Telstra screensaver — replete with company-affirming messages — and replacing it with a black screen.

According to a Telstra release at midnight on Monday corporate screensavers were removed from all Windows XP employee laptops and desktop computers and replaced with a black power-saving screensaver. Which at least confirms which side of the Windows Vista fence that Telstra sits on.

The release notes that “Originally screensavers were designed to conserve older computer screens that would be damaged by leaving the same areas illuminated for long periods. However modern screens don’t require these measures. Over time screensavers have been used predominantly for entertainment and communication.”

This begs the obvious environmentally friendly question (at least for the desktop machines) — why not just switch the screens off entirely and save even more power.?

Still every bit does count and when you’re a company of Telstra’s size you get a lot of bits to count and energy to save. Telstra estimates the removal of screensavers from 36000 computers will result in a cut of around 646 tonnes of CO2 annually — the equivalent Telstra claims of removing 140 cars from Australian roads for a year.

When you consider — on a global scale — how many company and personal computers have animated logos Sports Illustrated models swirling patterns or away-from-my-desk messages the potential to save on pollution by switching off screensavers is actually quite immense.

Telstra’s Property Director Mr Vito Chiodo is quoted as saying that “Screensavers use as much energy as a full screen of work and also require considerable processing energy. This change enables us to maintain our existing computer security levels while still reducing our energy use through a black screen”. We’d never thought of screensavers as a specific security risk and have to wonder how interactive Telstra’s previous screensaver was if it was using considerable processing energy. (We have a seen a game of “Whack-a-Sol” online that was done in Flash and very interactive however we doubt this would have been the officially sanctioned screensaver.)

One interesting green plaudit that Telstra claims is that it’s Australia’s biggest user of solar power with 10693 solar powered sites nationally. These include everything from exchanges all the way down to pay phones. The release didn’t note if the payphones were actually functional and not covered in grafitti or jammed up with chewing gum however it might explain why your phone goes a bit funny at night time if you’re covered by a solar exchange.