Technology Dependence

It’s amazing how fast we adapt to new technology, useful technology, in our lives. A few months ago I had cause to buy a a second monitor for my main PC — I teach MIS, so older boxen litter the house like dust bunnies, but there’s one I do most of my work on. The others are used for specific purposes, like demonstrations, or running simulations, or MS Windows. None are cutting edge.*

I had been suffering monitor envy, reading about all these dual- and triple- monitor setups. When we got our tax refund, I decided my share would go to an upgrade. Actually, what it did was allow me to buy a cheap widescreen for the SimBox, and move the existing monitor in beside the relatively newer one that came with my main box.

So, now I had two 19″ standard monitors, side-by-side [_][_] , each sitting atop an upside-down flowerpot. Whole new worlds opened up. Opera browser on this screen, e-mail and tweet stream on that screen. Never again would I have to Control-Tab just to see what was going on while I was working. Never again would I have to stack up Impress and Calc and Opera (oh, my) and spend as much time flipping as I did building a lecture. Never again would my students have to wait whole minutes, minutes I tell you, for me to respond to a tweet.

Then, disaster. One of the monitors went into flicker mode, and within minutes was deader than korfball.

Fortunately, it was still under warranty. I called ViewSonic, and the nice man walked me through the usual troubleshooting, including a “unplug, hold power button for 30sec” trick that was new to me. Results – nada. All was darkness. I got a RMA number and a mailing address and was on my way. Well, except for the fact that I was still monitorless, and would be until I send it off, they work on it, then send it back. Say a week after Wenceslaus Eve.

And herein lies the point of this essay. I’ve only been using dual monitors for half a year, but I am already dependent on them. A single monitor drives me crazy — everything is hiding behind everything else. There’s no room to spread out. I can’t have my references open alongside my work. I’m starting to feel claustrophobic.

But I have a Cunning Plan. More anon.

*Some years back, the Association for Computing Machinery found that, unless you need the cutting edge features on a next generation, say $4000 machine, you were better off going with a last generation $2000 machine, using it for two years, and then buying the no-longer-cutting-edge formerly-next-generation machine for $2000. You waited two years for the functionality, but you had an additional $2000 in the bank.


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