In 2001, I bought my first LCD, a 19" Princeton Graphics monitor for $1200. In 2004, I bought two Dell 19" for $600 each to replace the original LCD. In 2007, three Dell 19" LCDs for $400 each to replace the two Dells. Now, I can buy six 23" LCDs for approx. $200 each for a total cost of about $1200. It's funny how the number of monitors continues to increase while the total nominal investment remains constant.
I had been talking on and on for years about getting a 6-LCD setup and I'd even predetermined what I'd do with each LCD in a 3x2 layout (top1: IM/Chat, 2: Graphics Editor, 3: Putty/Shell, bottom 4: FTP/Explorer, 5: Text Editor, 6: Browsers). My techie friends laughed at me but at a resolution of about 2048x1152/LCD, I would have ample resolution for just about everything and I wouldn't have to alt-tab at all. My productivity in web-development would absolutely sky-rocket. And since could rig my own stand to hold the 6 LCDs in place instead of buying one for $600, I could get my dream-setup for about $1500. I had built my workstation in 2007 to easily handle 6 DVI ports when the time was right. Now all I needed was an excuse to splurge.
Last month, two of my Dell 19" LCDs died, leaving me with just one monitor. My wife joked that I needed new monitors because she didn't wanna be married to some one-LCD guy. She practically kicked me out of bed and told me to find my 6-LCD X-Mas gift. I spent three hours surfing Newegg, Dell Outlet etc. and finally found my dream setup. Right before I clicked 'Place Order' I yelled out "Honey if I click this button, I'm never leaving my computer room." I don't think she heard me but I clearly did and for some weird reason I didn't like it. I cleared my cart and started looking for a laptop instead.
I've always been anti-laptops because come on, how can you even compare a 3 or 6-LCD setup to a laptop with a tiny screen, tiny keyboard, and crappy batteries. However, something went off in my head at that point and I realized I didn't want my perfect 6-LCD setup even though it was right there in front of me. I have wanted 6-LCDs every single day for the past decade - ever since I started making websites. But it was when I yelled that I don't want to leave my room that I realized that I actually do want to leave my room.
Now I take my laptop with me everywhere I go and program whenever/wherever I want to. It's a very big change for me and my productivity has definitely taken a hit. However, my desire to code has risen and that is important. Who cares if I'm capable of being highly productive if I don't feel like it most of the time? I guess the take-home lesson here is that it is not the specs but the environment and experience the setup fosters. I still might buy my 6-LCDs someday, if I ever have a crazy do-or-die idea, but for now I'm just happier with a laptop.
I grew up playing with Lego and similar building-block toys but once I fell in love with software, I pretty much forgot that I could tinker with hardware too. For about two decades now I've been writing code to make computers do whatever I want them to do. Meanwhile my opinion of hardware has been that it is a failure-prone black-box that my beloved software needs to run on. If I could program tomatoes and watermelons to send email, share photos, and add numbers, I would throw away all my personal computers and go grocery shopping immediately. But since I am unable to do that as of yet, I will do the next best thing and start playing with building-blocks and hardware again.
A lot has changed in the past decade in the world of hobbyist hardware. There is a whole ecosystem now surrounding a tiny computer called Arduino that costs only $30. Arduino lets anyone write small programs that can interact with the world using sensors and motors to make things happen in rea-life. No matter how smart my code is on a regular computer, the most effect it can have on the real-world is to send an automated text-message or make a loud noise unless I buy some expensive hardware. Arduino can let me turn on/off LED lights, measure room temperature, detect infrared light, turn on/off motors, and much more. Basically, now my Lego toys can cheaply become tiny machines or robots and the best part is that I still get to write software to make it all work together.
I'm still waiting for my Arduino to arrive and already have an idea for my first, second, and third projects. The good thing is that being a beginner in this field, I get to learn a lot of new things in a very short span of time. After you have been working in a field for a decade or more, coming across new things becomes a rare event. It's not everyday that I hear about a revolutionary programming language or database system. But a tiny $30 PC that can inform me when my cats enter the kitchen? That's revolutionary!
Of all the ways I could have imagined starting the year 2010, I highly doubt "working 16 hours straight on New Year's Day" would have been on the list. At any manufacturing or warehousing company, year-end financials are always a big deal and since I maintain the core database, I have to make sure all the transactions are done properly. In addition to that, long weekends are perfect time for me to make upgrades to our computing infrastructure. So this means I've had a boatload of things to do between Dec 31, 2009 and Jan 4, 2010. I'm about half-way done and as of yet, no major catastrophes.
Oh ya... Happy New Year!