Evolution of my desk

This is probably just a pure vanity article. I thought it would be nice to see the evolution of my desk over the past years. Sadly I only have photos since 2008, so I have nothing before that.

iMac and Sidekick

Late 2008 I got a 20” iMac. Before that I had just used an iBook G4 from around 2004. The Intel Core 2 Duo in the iMac has been a huge improvement regarding performance. At the time I had a 17” sidekick monitor.


Tidy version of the “iMac and Sidekick“ setup

The hardware one can see in the picture is:

  • Apple Keyboard
  • LaCie 500 GB Disk
  • Logitech G5 Mouse
  • WD MyBook 500 GB Disk

Sometimes the desk just filled up with stuff. Since I had a keyboard and mouse drawer, that was not really that big of a problem, anyway.


Messy version of the “iMac and Sidekick” setup.

SyncMaster and iMac

In the middle of 2009 I got really tired of the glossy screen on the iMac. So I purchased a Samsung SyncMaster 24” display which I used as my primary one. The iMac itself was just degraded as a secondary screen by then.


SyncMaster 2443BW next to the iMac.

One can also see the EUR 20 Labtec speakers I had at the time.

Over the time I started to use more and more free (as in freedom) software on my Mac. So I have used Vim, Firefox, Thunderbird, LaTeX and a lot of other stuff. Somewhere in 2010 I realized that I was not using the Mac OS X (or macOS nowadays) really and that where was no value proposition for me to use a Mac. I eventually installed Ubuntu on the iMac and actually liked it better. That is something that I could not have seen coming in 2004 when I got my first Mac and was very excited about it.

Without the Mac OS, the iMac was just a very expensive computer that I did not even use for its display. Therefore I sold it and just used the HP tower that my brother left behind when he went into the US.

The HP tower

On the HP tower I continued to use Ubuntu. At some time I have replaced the Apple Keyboard by the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. I also replaced the Logitech mouse with a thinner Razer model which I could move around with the fingertips only. Both steps have been a great improvement over the previous human interface devices I have used.

The speakers got replaced by some Teufel ones, the desk replaced by a simpler model from IKEA. This way I had one level surface to do everything. After switching to that simple desk I realized how crappy those keyboard drawers are: Either the drawer has the wrong height or the whole desk. There is no point in having them.

For some reason the only picture I could find is a really messy one. Perhaps I wanted to document how messy my desk could possibly get?


A mess, underneath a computer setup.

ThinkPad X220

In the meantime I started studying Physics at the university in fall of 2011. For this I took my Asus Eee-PC every day. It was super light but the performance and ergonomics of that thing were horrible. It took some talking into but I eventually bought a ThinkPad with a docking station in mid 2012.


ThinkPad X220 on UltraBase, just removed the German ISO Keyboard and replaced with an US ANSI keyboard.

This did not make the desk cleaner but the space right next to it. Also I had some decent computer at the university and could do some work on the go.

Move and Filco keyboard

In early 2014 I moved. My desk just came along and did not change much. I put the ThinkPad on the other side eventually to use it as a notepad more conveniently.

The Microsoft Keyboard itself was pretty nice from the shape. After years of hammering the keys, its switches were really horrible and worn out. So I replaced that with a Filco Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches. Since most wrist rests are made of strange materials and were quite expensive, I just took an old towel and put it there.


New Dell Professional P2314H display. The wallpaper is Oxtongue Rapids by fallenflower from InterfaceLIFT. What looks like a thermos actually is a stainless steel water bottle from Klean Kanteen.

Also the Samsung display had a weird hardware defect with the DVI module so I have replaced it with a Dell Professional display.

LED Backlight

The trusty two lamps that I had next to the display since forever eventually started to blind me a bit. Perhaps it was something about the LED bulbs that I have used as a replacement. Anyway, they first moved behind the screen as seen above. Then I attached some IKEA LEDs to the back of the screen. This made the whole desk look really tidy.


LED Backlight

Three screens

Perhaps I have read too much about Jeff Atwood and his triple monitor lifestyle. Either way, I have bought two more of the Dell screens since 23” IPS screens are really affordable in 2016. Sadly the ThinkPad is not able to address them all at once, so I use a tower when I want all three screens.


Two additional screens hooked up to the tower. I write on a lab report there.

It might look really flashy but realize that FullHD screens cost only around EUR 120 a piece now and rarely modern (Ivy Bridge or so) Intel iGPUs can already feed three displays. So this setup is not extraordinary these days. A single 4k display has more pixels than this setup!

On top of the center screen you can see the ColorHugALS brightness sensor which I use to adjust the brightness of the screens automatically. See Brightness sensor and external screens for more details on that.