Another bit of Google fodder, in case others run into this problem. BTW, this applies to a computer running Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), but I’m assuming similar controls exist in Leopard. I’ll know in a day or two.
So, on my work MacBook Pro, I noticed that the colors were extremely washed out. The gradients in the title bar of my applications almost looked like two color stripes. NetNewsWire lost the nice pinstripes, and on my development application, some of the tints on my background colors were off or not visible. For example, #FAFAFF, which should be a very, very light blue was showing up as white on my screen.
It sure seemed like the contrast was off, but the Displays Preference Pane only allows you to either change the brightness or try to calibrate the display using a fairly complex and meaningless tool (for those of us not doing professional color work, at least).
Well, after using the handy search feature in System Preferences and searching for contrast, I found that the Universal Access preference pane contains an override for the contrast for your system apparently to allow people with different vision problems to use the display. Somehow, and I’m not really sure how, this Enhance Contrast setting was set away from “Normal” or the far left. Bringing that setting to Normal has gotten my colors and gradients back. Trust me, it was weird living in an unsubtle world.