Our screened in now

Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.
5 min readJul 28, 2022

Once upon a time, long long ago, I used a suitcase-sized computer with a 9” screen that could only display green. The year was 1991, and I used it to learn to code in Pascal in high school. It was my first “portable computer” after years of using pass-me-down Apple ][ series computers, and I thought it was amazing. Having portable computers changed my life, and made it possible for me to pound out class essays on a keyboard with spell check, and succeed where otherwise me and my dyslexia would have completely failed.

As much as I’m plugged in, I never envisioned that I’d go from that one tiny square of black and green to the monitor fort of my modern reality.

I live on computers. From that first massive Compaq, I’ve danced from a series of Toshibas to a delightful Sony VAIO, to a string of MacBooks that let me run my linux software in a terminal next to windows in which Adobe and MS software let me write and illustrate my work. … And when AIM came out — well, I think I have talked more over text in my adult life than I’ve talked face-to-face or on the phone. I have built a life of travel, and observing, and working remote in which I exist through my keyboard from whatever surface I can find.

Currently that surface is my knees.

I’m sitting on the floor typing while I lean against a wall amidst the chaos of a mostly packed up apartment. (I’m helping a friend move from another state to Edwardsville.)

And 1 laptop monitor is no longer really enough.

Over a lifetime of consuming sci fi in all its formats, I was taught that someday every surface will become a monitor, … or brain implants will give us a heads up display in our natural vision… or maybe headsets will take us into the VR universe.

The thing I never expected was that along the path to those futures would be the era of so very many monitors.

I first experienced using 3 monitors when I was a grad student doing research at McDonald Observatory. One monitor displayed the telescope tracking, one displayed the telescope output and my data reduction endeavors, and the central monitor was the land of terminal windows for controlling all the things. … And an AIM window for chatting, because chatting.

I wasn’t able to personally have two monitors for many years. It was somewhere around 2009 when I got to the point I had a monitor and a laptop and used both screens at once. Then, in 2020, with the surges of…

Pamela L. Gay, Ph.D.

Astronomer, technologist, & creative focused on using new media to engage people in learning and doing science. Opinions & typos my own.