My Tech Workspace from 2004 to 2016

Every week, The Sweet Setup interviews an Apple aficionado about his or her computing environment. I enjoy looking at the the products, software, and workspaces these people use on a daily basis; it gives me ideas on what hardware or apps I might want to try out in the future. Plus, I like looking at photos of minimalist desks!

In the process of uploading all of my photos from Aperture over to Google Photos, I came across the photo below. It shows how my computing environment looked like twelve years ago on January 10, 2004. Nearly all of the technology items in the photo are now obsolete, have been recycled, or are gathering dust in my house. The items cost many thousands of dollars in total; I got great use out of some of them, not so much for others.

My workspace circa 2004

Gutted Quicksilver PowerMac G4

  • Apple 17-inch Studio Display: This display had a resolution of 1280×1024, which is a tad smaller than the effective resolutions of the Retina display on my iPad Pro (2732×2048 or 1366×1024 Retina). The Studio Display felt large when I first got it, but it was dwarfed by the 30-inch Cinema Display that I bought a year later. It featured a proprietary ADC cable that combined power, video, and USB in a single cable.
  • Apple PowerBook G4 12-inch: The AlBook was small and light at its time, the successor to the PowerBook 100 and PowerBook 2400c and the predecessor to the MacBook Air and the Retina 12″ MacBook.
  • Apple Original iPod: 1,000 songs in your pocket. The original scroll wheel iPod no longer works, but it has found a place on my fireplace mantle.
  • Apple Newton MessagePad 2100: Apple’s first foray into handheld devices, the Newton was far better than the critics said it was. Sadly, it never caught on and was soon surpassed in sales by the Palm Pilot, a product that itself was eclipsed upon the introduction of smartphones like the iPhone. This Newton is resting inside a box in my garage, along with other Newton paraphernalia. I could throw in some AA batteries, turn it on, and the MessagePad will be just like it was in 2004, due to its use of solid-state flash memory.
  • FireWire 400 Hard Drives: The data on these drives have either long been migrated to other drives or have been deleted over the years. The drives and enclosures were recycled years ago.
  • Epson Flatbed Scanner: I don’t remember when I got rid of this scanner. It probably would still work today, but I have since migrated to using a Fujitsu ScanSnap for document scanning and my iPhone for on-the-go scanning.
  • Epson Stylus Photo 1280: I used this quite a bit for printing photos over the years. But, the 1280 sucked ink from its cartridges quickly and my attempts to install a continuous ink system were never successful. When I have a photo printing job to do, I send them over to CostCo. Not shown in the photo was my HP LaserJet 6MP printer, which I replaced last year with an HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw.
  • APC Uninterruptible Power Supply: UPS devices don’t last forever, and I replaced this with another model from APC some years ago. With my luck, my current one is probably going to beep that it needs to be replaced any day now.
  • Fellowes Paper Shredder: Not one of my better purchases. I remember having to deal with frequent jams with this shredder. Eventually, the thing just stopped working. Today, I wait for my city’s annual shredding day and get my paper shredded for free. I can also go to Red Dog Shred in Campbell and get a box disposed of for under $7 a box.
  • Canon EOS-1D Batteries: The original Canon EOS-1D shot 8 megapixel images at 8 frames per second. Many cameras today exceed that speed, but when the 1D came out, it was considered blistering fast. The camera was built like a tank and still works today when plugged into the DC coupler. I’ve used it a couple of times after retiring it from day-to-day use for the occasional time-lapse photography project.
  • Nite Rider Cycling Light and Battery: Before LED lights and lithium-ion batteries, the state-of-the-art in high-powered lighting technology for bikes were halogen lamps and Ni-Cad batteries. The lights were bright (not as bright as LEDs) but they ran hot and lasted only a couple of hours. I remember riding up Highway 84/Stage Road from Half Moon Bay and running really low on battery power on the way to Woodside. I had to conserve my lights and was riding in the dark, which was really dangerous on the winding roads. Thankfully, I made it back to my house, safe and sound.
  • Contour ShuttlePro: I bought this at one of the MacWorld conferences at Moscone Center, thinking that I would use it for our video editing or Aperture projects. I never did, ultimately using and preferring the keyboard shortcuts. The product is still sold today; I occasionally pull out the device from my plastic bin of cables and unused tech. I plug it into my computer, turn the jog wheel, and push some of the hard plastic buttons before putting it back in the plastic bin.

There are fourteen items shown in the photo. Nine of them have been recycled or thrown away. Of the remaining five (shown with the yellow balloons), two of them are inoperable (iPod and the PowerMac) and the remaining three are kept mostly for nostalgia reasons.

Here’s how much 2016 workspace is currently configured. Items in blue are earmarked to be removed in the coming weeks.

My workspace in 2016

  • Apple 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2015): This computer is faster than my 2008 2.8GHz 8-core Mac Pro for most tasks. It uses far less electricity than the tower and is of course more portable. I chose to get the 2.5GHz MacBook Pro model without the dedicated graphics chip, because I’ve had problems with overheating chipsets in the past. While I don’t plan on upgrading for at least another year, I’m looking forward to the 2016 Apple laptop lineup with the more powerful and efficient Skylake processors and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C I/O ports.
  • Apple Thunderbolt Display: When I bought the MacBook Pro, I swapped out my decade-old 30″ Cinema Display for the Thunderbolt Display. I don’t find that I’m missing the extra vertical space of the 30″. I also like the fact that there’s just two cables, the Thunderbolt cable and the power cable that goes straight into the outlet. With the 30″ Cinema Display, there were cables galore due to the presence of a large rectangular power brick and the requirement of a Dual-Link-to-DVI adapter to connect to my laptop.
  • Apple Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad: These are the non-rechargeable versions of the mouse and trackpad. I’d like to get the newer models because I’m tired of replacing the AA (rechargeable) batteries every few weeks.
  • Apple iPad Pro with Apple Pencil: Drawing on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil has been a revelation. It’s one more tool to replace pen and paper in my life. If only the Apple Pencil worked with my iPhone (iPhone 7?). Were I in high school or college today, this would be the device I would use to take all my class notes.
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus: My current phone. Big, yes, but it has a great screen. The best iPhone yet (until the next one).
  • Apple Earpods: I have several pairs of EarPods around the house. Will these become obsolete if the rumors of Apple switching to Lightning headphones (or Bluetooth) with the iPhone 7 are true?
  • Logitech K760 Solar Powered Keyboard: My primary keyboard since 2012. I like the fact that I have never worried about charging the K760 and that it can support up to three different devices. I recently found a good deal on a Logitech K811 keyboard on eBay, and I might switch to that as my main keyboard. I thought about the Magic Keyboard, but the K811 supports three devices and has backlit keys.
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M: A workhorse since 2009, the ScanSnap S1500M helps me maintain a mostly paper-free office at home. There is a newer model, the iX500, which can scan wirelessly to a Mac or iOS device.
  • Rain Design mStand: A solid piece of aluminum, the mStand has served as my laptop stand for many years.
  • Roost Laptop Stand: A Kickstarter project, the Roost stand folds up and is more portable than the mStand. I’ll be using it when traveling with my laptop (and maybe the iPad Pro too).
  • OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock: This Thunderbolt dock provides multiple ports for my MacBook Pro, including 2 x ThunderBolt 2 ports, 5 x USB 3 ports, Ethernet, Audio, FireWire 800 and HDMI.
  • OWC ThunderBay 4: I’ve configured the four drives in the ThunderBay to act as one big RAID 5 unit separated into several partitions. I have multiple offsite backups of the data on this unit.
  • Adonit Jot Touch 4 Bluetooth Stylus: My first illustrations on the iPad mini and iPad Pro were done using this stylus. It’s no Apple Pencil, and I’ll be looking to sell it soon.
  • Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset: The battery seems to be on its last legs, and audio quality feels like it has worsened. It doesn’t help that Jawbone’s latest software removed support for this headset.
  • NewerTech Voyager Q Drive Dock (hidden): This is sitting behind the Thunderbolt Display. The Voyager takes a single bare 3.5″ or 2.5″ SATA drive and mounts it on my computer via the USB3 port on the Thunderbolt 2 dock.
  • APC Uninterruptible Power Supply (hidden): There’s a new UPS hiding behind the Quicksilver G4 tower under my desk.

For the curious, the canvas print of Steve Jobs was taken by me during the Antennagate press event at Apple’s Town Hall in July, 2010. It’s my favorite photo that I have of the late Apple founder.

My workspace today is less cluttered than the 2004 edition, but there’s still a lot of tech on the table. It’s nice to have gone from having both a desktop and a laptop computer to just one computer. On the other hand, I now have an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to manage in addition alongside my MacBook Pro. In some ways, this can be more confusing, especially when a phone or FaceTime call comes in and every device starts ringing.

Looking at my photos, I’m reminded of this video from the Harvard Innovation Lab showing the evolution of the desk from the 80’s to today.

What will my computing workspace look like twelve years from now in 2028? I never thought about that question in 2004, and here we are now in 2016. Some questions that I’m asking myself include:

  • Will I continue to use a combination of a laptop, tablet, and smartphone for my work, creative, and personal computing needs? While I might buy an iMac-like computer in the future, I don’t see myself buying a Mac Pro anytime soon. Or, will I have just one small device that plugs into (or streams to) an external display and keyboard like Microsoft Windows Phone 10 does with Continuum? Or, will that primary computer be a future version of an Apple Watch or Android Wear, a device that never leaves our wrist and can connect to everything wirelessly?
  • How large will my dataset of photos, videos and files grow to? Right now, I’m over 10TB. I can see having 30TB of data over the next decade.
  • Where will I be storing that data? Will the costs come down such that I can have all of it in a secure location in the cloud? Or will I continue to store it offline with multiple backups?

Moving forward, I will strive to be more conscious of the tech purchases I make in the future. I’ll try to reduce the amount of frivolous buying of items that sound great on paper, but ultimately are useless. Following tech minimalism is more difficult than paring down my wardrobe, as I love keeping up with tech’s cutting edge more so than the latest fashion trends.

4 thoughts on “My Tech Workspace from 2004 to 2016

  1. Nice write-up. Your current setup looks much more uncluttered than 12 years ago!

  2. Louis

    Where is the printer? Nice to see blogger still keeping website active!!

  3. The printer is on the other side of the office not shown in the photo. Now that it’s wireless, I could even place it in another place in the house (although the office is the best place at the time).

  4. Great setup that you have today. Aren’t we all glad that technology continues to get smaller so it takes up less room on our desks.

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