Mono Adapter, Mono Display

Date: 2010-11-10 05:32 Author: Views: Size: Large Medium Small

The Mono Display Adapter (MDA, also MDA card, Mono Display and Printer Adapter, MDPA) introduced in 1981 was IBM’s standard video display card and computer display standard for the PC. The MDA did not have any graphics mode of any kind; it only featured a single Mono text mode (PC video mode 7), which could display 80 columns by 25 lines of high resolution text characters.

The standard IBM MDA card was equipped with 4 kilobytes of video memory. The MDA‘s high character resolution (sharpness) was a feature meant to facilitate business and wordprocessing use: Each character was rendered in a box of 9×14 pixels, of which 7×11 made out the character itself (the other pixels being used for space between character columns and lines). Some characters, such as the lowercase “m”, were rendered 8 pixels across.

The MDA featured the following character display attributes: invisible, underline, normal, bright (bold), reverse video, and blinking; some of these attributes could be combined, so that e.g., bright, underlined text could be produced.

The theoretical total screen resolution of the MDA was 720×350 pixels. This number is arrived at through calculating character width (9 pixels) by columns of text (80) and character height (14 pixels) by rows of text (25). However, the MDA again could not address individual pixels; it could only work in text mode, limiting its choice of display patterns to 256 characters. Its character set is known as code page 437. The character patterns were stored in ROM on the card, and so could not be changed by software. The only way to simulate “graphical” screen content was through ANSI art.

IBM’s original MDA included a parallel printer port (hence its original name of “Mono Display and Printer Adapter”), thus avoiding the need for a separate parallel interface on computers fitted with an MDA.

MDA Connector

Pin Function
1 Ground
2 Ground
3 Not Used
4 Not Used
5 Not Used
6 Intensity
7 Video
8 Horizontal Sync
9 Vertical Sync


MDA Signal

Type Digital, TTL
Resolution 720h × 350v
H-freq 18.432 kHz
V-freq 50 Hz
Colors 2-4