Posted on Sat 19 June 2021

that should not go there

Twenty-five years ago, approximately, my housemates and I bought office chairs – rolling five-star bases, adjustable arms, comes in a box with an L-shaped hex driver like IKEA stuff – and put them in our dining room around the table. They were cheap and comfortable.

I can’t tell you how many people looked at that arrangement and needed to talk about their sudden feelings.

I can tell you that a bunch of friends immediately declared their intention to do the same when they next bought furniture – including my parents. I think most of them did.

Back in the 1980s, a “home computer” would come with a video output that would drive a television as though it were producing a TV channel. VCRs used the same system when they first came out. Dedicated monitors were too expensive unless you were rich or could justify the expense for business purposes.

Over time it became normal that you bought a specialized, high-resolution monitor. It could be a big expense – I remember tracking prices obsessively.

Then LCD monitors went from being terrible and expensive to mediocre and almost affordable, just before everyone bought a new TV (as ATSC digital television was introduced). That led to a production revolution that made big high-res (1920x1080) TVs cheap, and that brought down the prices of monitors using the same technology.

Still, there is a disconnect in many people’s head between “computer monitor” and “TV”. No company makes a 42” 4K computer monitor for a reasonable price, but dozens will sell you a 42” 4K TV for cheap. Pretty much every computer has an HDMI output, though, and all those TVs use that input.

It turns out that at normal office desk depths, putting such a TV at the back of the desk is just like having four normal 21” monitors - the kind that go for $100 each these days - mounted next to each other, but without the annoying bezels in between them. So that’s what we do in our house for the desks that need them. It’s typically 25-40% cheaper than the separate monitors would be, too.

Just like the office chairs at the dining table, people seem split between immediate revulsion and delight.

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