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October 8, 2010

What Do You Do With a Second Monitor?

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

I’ve put two monitors to work on my computers since 1988. That’s about how long the technology has existed, but the real question is: Why bother at all?

The first computer I remember that could pull the dual monitor trick was the Macintosh, specifically the Mac II. I remember the presentation that Steve Jobs made, and the Wow from the crowd when he slid a window from one screen to another. It was something!

I bought my Mac SE30 in 1987. Sometime after that, I upgraded it with a Radius Full Page Display, which was a monitor that showed a full 11 1/2-by-8 page of paper in portrait view. The monitor was nearly as tall as the Mac itself.

In that configuration, I used the Full Page Display as my primary monitor. (It even had a nifty tear-off menu feature that came in great for doing graphic design.) On the smaller, Mac screen I placed a program called Acta, which was my outliner.

Later on, the PC grew the ability to have dual monitors. I configured an early writing computer of mine, one I dubbed “Ming,” with dual monitors. Dual CTR monitors. Man was that hot!

As I did on the original Mac, I used one monitor for writing and the other monitor, the smaller one, had my outline.

Today I still keep a dual monitor system as my main writing computer. The main monitor, which I’ve had for over 10 years now, is where I keep various Word chapter documents. The second monitor holds the outline. Here’s a picture of the setup:

My writing computer, Boxer, with his two monitors.

I also have a second dual monitor system, which is my test computer. On that system, the second monitor holds the Windows Sidebar as well as the PorchCam, which you can see in this screen shot, which originally appeared in this blog post.

Figure 1. A screen cap of a dual monitor Windows PC.

Honestly, I don’t know if dual monitors are popular. I don’t think anyone has ever done a survey. Because most PC graphics hardware can handle two monitors, it’s not really a technical feat anymore, not like the first time I did it on my writing PC back in the early 1990s.

Further, I’m not sure how anyone else would use dual monitors. On a PC, only one monitor sports the taskbar. Games only run on the main monitor. Beyond that, do you have a dual monitor setup? How do you use the second monitor?

5 Comments

  1. You’ve had the same writing computer for 10 years? Wow. I would assume all of the hardware isn’t the same, though, right?

    I have a Windows 2000 tower in my closet that’s over a yard high. I used it every day up until about a year ago when I got my Windows 7 laptop. 🙂

    Comment by gamerguy473 — October 8, 2010 @ 4:21 am

  2. The computer you see here as #6 was my writing machine Ming. I still use the same Mitsubishi monitor, but Ming was retired about 3 years ago. So, yes, up until about three years ago, I was using the same Windows 98 box to write my books.

    I remember those huge towers! I had a pair of them back in the 1990s. The expandability was sweet, but the size was obnoxious.

    Comment by admin — October 8, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  3. I often use two monitors at school when I can snaffle a computer that no-one’s using and hook it’s monitor up to the lappy. I find it deathly useful (I’m doing it now). I usually have my emails or Tweetdeck on the laptop monitor and whatever I’m working on on the secondary monitor.

    I’ve been wanting to get a second monitor for home, but I’ve not done so yet.

    Comment by Douglas — October 13, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

  4. Monitors are cheap. Indulge!

    Comment by admin — October 13, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

  5. The only people I know who are excited about the idea of dual monitors are graphic artists. I was into 3D graphics myself, and you simply cant have enough screen real estate to give you all possilbe views of a 3D scene as well as have room for the UI and reference material. The only other group of users I can think of who might desire dual monitors are programmers, but I havent heard much about their use in that area.

    Dan- I recall you mentioned before you have a college degree in graphic design, so I imagine that was your draw to dual monitors and Macs.

    Comment by BradC — October 18, 2010 @ 7:15 am

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