Thursday, October 20, 2011

I’d like to open by saying that economics blows.

All right, so as for those of you who read regularly(none of you) you will know that if I have one great passion, it is writing. If I have two great passions, the second slot is torn between legos and computers. Today its computers.

There’s an old saying: give a person two monitors, and they’ll never be able to go back to one. Its true! But its curious how the problem grows exponentially. I skipped over two monitors and went directly to three with my Matrox Parhelia, probably my favorite card of all time, and ran on 3 screens for years. It was great! Until 3 was no longer enough, so I went to four.

You can probably guess where this is going.

I have a monitor mount bolted to my desk right now that will eventually hold 6x24” LCD panels. Because while 5 was bound to be super-great I decided to skip ahead to 6. 7, actually, since I already have an extra monitor hanging off the side. Yeah, this is somewhere between passion and sickness.

In any event, I am starting out with two 24” 16:10 monitors, which I absolutely love. Max resolution is 1920:1200 and there is enough vertical space to get some extra work done, or just see things better.

But there’s a problem: I need 6, and nobody makes 16:10 monitors anymore. Why? Because everyone is making them at 16:9. That little 1 in the vertical coloum amounts to about 120 pixels, or around an inch of missing horizontal space. And, as someone with a 16:9 sitting directly adjacent to a 16:10, I can tell you it is huge.

Here’s the problem: that extra 120 pixels makes an enormous difference. My 16:9 monitor has about the same vertical space as my old 4:3 monitors, but nearly twice the width. Nearly, not actually.

Now, the whole point of multiple monitors is to increase your work area and segregate work spaces. I can drag an application from screen one over to screen two, and view two windows side-by-side. Most applications are basically made to run on a 4:3 monitor running at 1024x768. Now, two screens gives you 2048x768, two windows side-by-side. Get one wide monitor, it better have either enough horizontal resolution to comfortable display two windows side-by-side, or have enough vertical resolution to at least not waste space.

A 16:9 monitor has neither of these features.

I have to tell you, I will go to my grave being baffled by the reason this aspect ration caught on. Would you like to know why, oh brave internet user? The answer is movies.

About a zillion years ago(ok, it was only 1955), an inventor(OK, he was a film producer, gah!) invented a process called Todd-AO(Todd American Optic) which basically got the whole 16:9 aspect ratio ball rolling. Why was it invented? To compete with television, obviously. Telivsion back then ran on a 4:3 aspect ratio, with movies running at 16:9 it gave the audience more to see. And as its much easier to make a room wider than taller(and it also holds more people), wider movie screens became more desirable than taller ones.

All right, so how does this work out to today? Well, here we are a zillion(56) years later, and all of our TVs have switched to the 16:9 aspect ratio. 16:9 to play movies better, so we don’t have to do that whole letter-boxing thing to enjoy full-screen movies. TVs are manufactured by the hundreds of thousands, and as we all know, the more of something you make the cheaper you can make it.

Now for the frustration: 16:10 monitors, which have been around a while but are only made by the tens of thousands, cannot compete price-wise to screens made for TVs. 16:9 monitor can be had for about half the price of a 16:10, and its gotten so bad that 16:10 screens are barely being produced anymore(if at all).

Just as a fun side note for you, I happen to know which person I get to blame for stupid resolutions thanks to Forbidden Hollywood and their song about Michael Todd and the Todd-AO(American Optics) process. “Ooooh, Todd-AO you’re the widest screen I’ve ever known!” Yes, thank you.

Anyway, I presently have 2x16:10s and a 16:9. The plan is to put 3x16:10s along the bottom and 3x16:9s along the top, and then I think I will finally have enough monitors for a little while.

But, in conclusion, economics blows.

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