China made me do it!

A few months ago I was chatting with Aaron on AIM and he mentioned that he has two monitors hooked up to his computer, running at the same time, independently. I had thought a dual monitor setup like that was pretty complicated, but he explained that with Windows XP it’s actually really simple; all you need is a second (PCI) video card and a second monitor. It’s a snap to tell windows where the monitors are relative to each other so that you can stretch your desktop over both monitors’ screens, the cursor gliding effortlessly from one screen to the other with a twitch of the mouse.

As something of a technophile I was intrigued by the idea, but I quickly concluded that I’d never have a dual monitor setup because it’s pretty expensive for being nothing more than a frill.

Then last week my monitor suddenly went bad. Some diagonal static coursed across the screen, and then it went black. The light next to the power button indicated that the monitor was on, but nothing appeared on the screen. What’s more, it couldn’t be turned off. Unplugging from both the wall and the computer and replugging didn’t fix it. Looked like my monitor was dead, and the warranty had expired a few months prior.

The next night I found myself lugging a 19″ Samsung monitor home. It barely fit in the taxi. As I stumbled through the front door, I saw light coming from my room. Strange, I thought, I was pretty sure I didn’t leave any lights on. I walked into the room, and there was my old 17″, glowing angelically as if it had never malfunctioned.

So then I had two monitors. In China when you buy something, you can’t return it just because you don’t want it. Any time you hand over money, you’re going to be very hard pressed to get it back. If the merchandise is actually defective, they’ll usually swap it for you (if you can find them again), but you won’t see that money again. So when you buy something, you need to be sure you want it.

So what was I to do? I had just spent about $200 on a new monitor that I didn’t need after all. My old monitor seemed to work fine, but who knows when it would crap out on me again.

The solution? Sell one? No…. I spent another $40 on a PCI video card so I could use both monitors at once.

dual monitor setup

I’m really enjoying having two monitors, but I honestly didn’t intend to do this. China made me do it.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Gee, John, it’s kinda hard to start a political discussion about monitors. 🙂

  2. Once you go dual, you’ll never go back 🙂

    I always thought dual-monitor setups were unnecessary until I tried coding with two monitors… invaluable. Having documentation on one and code on the other is heaven. The same goes for web development I assume.

    Enjoy, don’t feel guilty 🙂

  3. “Gee, John, it’s kinda hard to start a political discussion about monitors. :-)”

    Wrong. Look at the two monitors. One is white and the other black (or is it blue? Hell, let’s call it black or colored). How is he going to make them co-exist, by affirmative action?

  4. and why is one placed higher than the other? Is John introducing caste to egalitarian China? Time for me to form a revolutionary army of downtrodden monitors in the mountains of Jiangxi.

  5. Da Xiangchang Says: October 22, 2004 at 6:32 am

    And the black monitor is soooo much bigger than the white monitor. Tell me, John, if this is true: once you go black, you never go back. 😛

    But seriously, I’m glad you got a 19-inch monitor. I have a nice 17-inch Futura (say what?) monitor. It was given to me. All I had to do was take the giver out to a $25 dinner and the monitor was mine. Can’t beat that. The next monitor I get will definitely be a 21-incher.

  6. Gee John
    you got the wrong date on its October not December dude.

  7. Da Xiangchang,

    Actually, it’s the blue monitor that is 17″. The whitish one is the new 19″.

  8. YY,

    Oops, thanks for pointing that out.

  9. Da Xiangchang Says: October 22, 2004 at 8:34 am

    Damn, a white one that’s 19 inches?!! Unbelievable!!! It must be the John Holmes of monitors then.

  10. John Holmes . . . isn’t he the guy built like a tripod?

    Actually I like the decorations on the top of the shelving.

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