The screen saver got off to a rocky start, and has continued to be a computer program that generates as many screams as it does screens. The controversy has returned.

Novelist Bob Heinlein got this great idea for a screen saver. Unfortunately, it came 20 years before it was needed. Computers lacked screens in 1961.

That was the rocky start of a computer program that would generate as many screams as it did screens. The controversy has returned.

Screen savers saved monitors. The phosphors in the old cathode-ray monitors over years burned a permanent image into the screen. The program you used most often appeared in a gray shadow, called ghosting.

When Windows arrived, whole desktops would ghost. How aggravating.

The fix was a screen saver that switched on after the system sensed it was idle. They displayed a moving image that neatly prevented burn in.

Early ones were quite fascinating, turning your monitor into an art frame. Soon came problems.

Some users accused their savers of triggering seizures. Savers often were sloppy programs, causing RAM memory to drain and eventually lock up the system.

You’ll still find a suite of screen savers in all Windows and Mac systems. They still are active, a default setting, even though computer makers now call them “at fault.”

HP’s latest guidance is to turn off the saver, period. Modern LCD screens don’t need them, and that includes all laptops.

The only other reason to have one is for the pretty pictures, but the rush to save energy dashed that.

HP says screen savers do more harm than good, prematurely wearing out monitors. That’s understandable. There’s a lot going on to power those graphics.

The problem with LCD monitors is the background fluorescent light. It’s usually the first thing to blow. It stays on all the time with a screen saver, shortening its life.

All computers now come with a government-mandated power saving feature that, like a screensaver, senses user inactivity.

Instead of launching the saver, it shuts down the monitor and hard drive and puts the system into sleep mode. This saves energy and wear on the system.

Make sure your monitor isn’t running a screen saver. It’s in the Display portion of Control Panel or in Mac’s System Preferences. Don’t bypass sleep mode. Your monitor sheds contrast, up to 50 percent over its lifetime. Screensavers speed up this process.

Legendary programs die hard. Screen savers tempting us to turn our monitors into art will be around for many more years. You’re not saving anything with them, so don’t believe the name. They come with heavy baggage.