Chris uses two monitors. I know because he told us. Like him, I’ve been using a dual monitor setup for years now. At the cost of losing valuable desktop space, I actually had two CRTs, one of them a huge 21-inch hernia-producing monster. Like Chris, I found this to be an extremely useful arrangement. For instance, when processing images, I can dedicate the whole large screen to the image and the other to various toolbars and support things.
In normal use, I can have one screen for email and the other for whatever I happen to be doing.
You would think that with my enthusiasm for more pixels, my senior clients would be infected and want to emulate their instructor. The reality is that only one person I have ever tutored has gone to a dual screen display. That was a professional who works with large spreadsheets, and he saw the value of this improvement in his system right away. Even my wife who uses her computer several hours every day in running her business has politely declined my offer – and she sees me working on my system, so it is not like the concept is novel.
This rejection, primarily by seniors, is most puzzling. The cost might be a consideration, but non-gaming, low end graphics cards are not expensive, and if worse comes to worse, the second monitor could be a CRT that can be had for $0.50 at some thrift stores or garage sales. So cost is not likely the issue. Learning how to deal with an additional monitor might be a negative, but since new really new skills are involved, that seems unlikely to be a major concern.
The only explanation I have been able to come up with is that the image of dual monitors with a cursor merrily jumping from one to the other looks wrong. That is, the image is of a far younger person who is much more computer-literate than a typical senior. It would be almost as unseemly as getting tattoos, piercings, and a motorcycle. The alternative explanation that seniors simply do not perform tasks on a computer which are challenging enough to demand dual monitors doesn’t match my experience. Seniors who get into the culture are just as likely to spend time surfing and hunting for bargains as anyone. In fact, they probably know better how to find inexpensive pharmaceuticals than most younger surfers.
Seniors in mobile homes tend to have more limited space and their only computer station might be opening a laptop at their kitchen table. But even here some laptops easily accept a dual monitor.
Of course we could look at this issue the other way around and acknowledge that expanding the visual bandwidth by adding a monitor is a primitive solution that will likely have a short lifetime. The same effect can be achieved with larger monitors (larger meaning more pixels, not simply bigger). New technologies are aiming for monitors which are essentially “smart paper.” Maybe before my clientele cycles through to a new crop, we will see a radical change in monitors. I would love to have the whole inside of my roll-top desk become a wrap-around display like the military uses for training simulations. But for now I will continue to suggest that my clients can benefit from an LCD main screen and a cheap CRT secondary monitor (probably their old one before they upgraded to a flatscreen). If they have the funds and desk space, then a matched pair of LCDs would be better.
In spite of the obvious benefit of a dual-monitor setup, I doubt that any on my clients have ever used a high-speed three-monitor system as seen in some advanced games. In fact, none of my senior clients admit to playing action-oriented games. But then, neither do I.
Click here to read about my new tutorial on helping seniors. The new version has grown considerably over the original. It has more topics and anecdotes, and fewer typos. While you’re at it, check out my expanded tutorial on decision theory.
[tags]dual monitor,dual screen,triple screen,triple monitor,limited space,smart paper[/tags]