I sat there at my desk, exhausted from another day of working from home. My 49" ultrawide curved monitor's screen flashed with alerts and intrusive pings. I hadn't left my desk in eight hours. The light was fading outside my window, and I felt awful. I can't keep doing this, I thought to myself. I'd recently read the article, which only confirmed my experience.
At first, when the pandemic started and I became fully remote, I was interested in building the most comfortable home setup– better than the one provided by any modern open floor plan office. I succeeded in doing so, but the problem was that my desk setup was too comfortable. Instead of getting up to walk around every so often as I'd done at the office, I'd spend the day sitting in my plush office chair unmoved.
I searched online for possible solutions and learned about the idea of uncomfortable tech. The philosophy is that if you use limited tech, it'll be uncomfortable and naturally lead to you not using it for hours a day. I decided to try it and immediately thought about downsizing my monster monitor. I thought back to the first computer I'd used, the Macintosh Plus with its 8" screen. Perfect, I thought there's no way I'd want to use that continuously for eight-plus hours a day.
So, I rang my dad.
"Do you remember that Macintosh Plus that I used to write gibberish on?" I asked.
"Yes?" he replied with a curious tone.
"I'd like to use it for a personal project," I said
"It is broken. It doesn't turn on," he replied with a tinge of sadness.
"Really?" I replied in disbelief.
I couldn't believe it. It had been sitting in the office like an old relic for as long as I could remember.
"Do you mind if I use it then?" I asked after a few moments.
"Go for it. I'd be happy to see it used instead of sitting in the attic," he said.
I made the hour drive to my dad's house– everything in Houston is an hour apart. It's an incredible anomaly and makes visiting friends and family an all-day affair.
"This is much lighter than I remember it," I said while lifting the Macintosh Plus.
"Oh, yeah, I removed the motherboard and other parts since they were broken," dad said, scratching his head.
"Thanks, saves me a trip to recycling," I said
I loaded the Macintosh Plus into my car, remembering how I'd written gibberish on it, bummed that the original components were gone. Guess we're both going through some changes, I thought.
I quickly sold my ultrawide monitor to a TikToker who RGB'd it out and the office chair to a pal to fund the project's more expensive pieces; chair and keyboard. I'd settled upon QOR 360's Cleo 2 chair, designed to engage the core actively and, in general, be uncomfortable.
I also think it fits the aesthetic of the new setup as well. I replaced the previous keyboard with the Model F - Kishaver mechanical keyboard, which matched the feel of the 1988 colors and design factors. It's uncomfortable because it is the loudest keyboard I've ever used. Each click is like a small firecracker. I prefer the hybrid topre keys from the Happy Hacker's Keyboard professional Hybrid S which feel like butter and make almost no noise.
I waited for parts to slowly arrive over several months. The mouse converter to USB and 3D printed frame were the slowest to arrive. Both were coming from overseas; Phillippines and Germany, respectively.
Once all the parts arrived, assembly was straightforward.
I popped open the Macintosh Plus case and was surprised by the amount of space. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had the autographs of Steve Jobs and the people who built the Macintosh. The M1 Mac Mini fit perfectly, standing up like the original motherboard, almost as if it was designed for this obscure project. Fitting, I thought, and I enjoyed the feeling of continuation. It seemed as if the internals of the Macintosh Plus had evolved to M1 Mac Mini, and I had changed nothing at all.
I then had the frame to hold the screen 3D printed. I chose to use a 3D online printer because I desired a powdered frame that is smoother in appearance than the typical layered approach, which is what the original 3D printed frame had been made with.
If you prefer to save some money, check around in your local community for 3D printers. It'll probably be under 100 USD, depending upon the finish selected and material; layered is the cheapest but also the roughest.
I have been using this setup for a few months now, and it has done the job of keeping me focused and, more importantly, keeping me off of the computer as much. As far as productivity goes, I've found it to help hone my focus on tasks such as writing code and, of course, writing.
If you're interested in doing the same, then here's the part list:
- Kishaver F62 by Model F Keyboards
- Cleo 2 by QOR 360
- Macintosh Mouse Adapter by TinkerBoy
- 8" Screen by Pimoroni found on AdaFruit
- 3D Screen Holder File by Me
- 3D Print Order from JawsTec
- M1 Mac Mini by Apple
- Macintosh Plus can be found in Garage Sales if lucky
I've also noticed that I feel much better at the end of the workday. When I'm uncomfortable to the point of needing to step away, I've opted to check in on my garden.