I started with one screen, spiked up to 4, and now generally use two. More screens add to developer productivity, but I found there is a limit my mind can handle. If I need to write code, refresh a browser, and tail output, three screens works well. I have found that most of the time, two screens is fine, and that is my current sweet spot. With three screens, if I leave my email client open, new messages interrupt my train of thought. With four screens there is just too much to look at. I had a need to fill an empty screen with something, anything, even if it was useless and distracting. It depends on the role though. If I were a day trader or worked in a NOC, I’d want as many TV sized screens as they would buy me.
More important than screens in my opinion is ergonomics. I make sure to setup my chair so my neck and back are set correctly and my wrists are comfortable. Most furniture out there is junk and should not be used for a typical 8-12 hour computer work day. The wrist pad for my mouse in invaluable and I carry a portable one in my laptop bag. Taking physical breaks is important. I tend to pace around a lot when I’m chewing through a problem, but at times I do have to remind myself to get up and look outside. Coding is so fun, who wants to go afk?
When a chair stars to give me a pain in my neck or back, I immediately go and get a new one. I’ve learned not to fight a bad chair, since a stiff neck really sucks. Most chairs last a couple years, and you get what you pay for.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
I started with one clunky CRT. Reason, these things were spendy! One VGA output was all my computer could handle anyway.
In 2004 I proudly upgraded to dual 17″ LCD Dell Ultrasharps, they were $300 each.
(Dual monitors in 2004!)
Shortly after I got dual monitors at home, I convinced my work place to upgrade everybody. Those were good times.
(Three monitors in 2006, plus a testing laptop.)
Then I started getting aggressive about this. More is always better right? Not necessarily. The 4 screen phase only lasted a short time.
(2006 – Four screens, too much to keep track of for me. The CRT went to Goodwill.)
At work around 2007, I went back to two screens by my own choice, and today I still use just two.
(2011- Modern day setup)
The big investment I made lately is in the chair. It is a Serta – “multifunction manager’s chair”. It was the most expensive computer chair at Office Max. I can work for long periods without any trouble. I’m still rocking the ergo keyboard too.