(+) One Monitor, One Keyboard, One Mouse, Multiple Computers

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Computer prices keep dropping and dropping. You can now find desktop computers selling for less than $300 and occasionally even find refurbished ones for under $200. In just a few minutes of online shopping, you might find several low-priced examples. Brand-new Chromebox computers can be purchased for $160 and one version, called a Chromestick, sells for $85!

The lowest-priced systems may have modest power by today’s standards but would have been considered top-end screamers just a few years ago. It is now reasonable to own two or even more computers for different purposes. You might have a Windows computer and a second one for running Macintosh or Linux or the Chrome operating system. In fact, both Linux and Chromeboxes run well on low-price machines, usually faster than Windows does on the same hardware. At these prices, monitors are usually not included. In my opinion, that’s a good thing.

A typical Chromebox computer

NOTE: A Chromebox is simply a desktop version of a Chromebook laptop. See https://amzn.to/2Mh8PSU for several examples of Chromebox desktop computers.

Another scenario to consider is when you upgrade to the latest, greatest whiz-bang computer. Moving all your data and programs off the old computer and copying all that to the new system can be problematic. In fact, not all the old programs running on older computers will operate properly on today’s Windows 10 systems. You may be limited to running the old software on the old computer and new software on the new computer. Obviously, that means you need two computers on your desk.

While computer prices drop and processing power increases, one thing remains constant: the amount of space on your computer desk. Usually you can find room for the second computer box: the mini-towers that are so common today will usually sit on the floor, just to one side of your feet.

Of course, computer geeks like myself do not stop at two computers. I presently have several computers on or under my desk. The first is a Mac Mini (a desktop version of a Macintosh that uses an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse in the same manner as many Windows systems). I use the MacMini system for writing newsletters, handling e-mail, and a variety of other text-oriented tasks. My desktop scanner and a printer are also connected to this Mac Mini.

My second system runs Linux. Actually, it is an older system that ran Windows 7 when I purchased it, but I later re-formatted the hard drive and installed Linux on it. The Linux system has a middle-of-the-road graphics board, good enough for every-day use but not good enough for high-end computer games that require powerful video boards. I don’t play video games anyway, so I don’t have any need for an expensive video board.

A third system on my desktop runs Windows 10. I use it less than I do the Macintosh and Linux systems but appreciate having it available when I want to test and write about some piece of Windows software.

I plan to add a fourth computer soon: a Chromebox. Actually, I use my Chromebook laptop often but probably will pick up a Chromebox before long to enjoy a 27-inch screen and a full-sized keyboard on a system running the Chrome operating system.

Then there is the fifth computer that I will find a use for “one of these days.” It is an old Windows XP system that I probably should have thrown away years ago; but, it is the only system I have that has a built-in CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive. Admittedly, I haven’t turned that system on in a year or more, but I keep thinking I might need to use its CD-ROM drive “one of these days.” I am reluctant to throw it out.

Admittedly, I do not keep all these computers powered up and operating all the time. I only power them on as I need to use them. On a typical day, I may work on only one or two of these computers. However, the Mac Mini system does run twenty-four hours a day. These others are powered on and off only as I have a need for them.

The space taken by the computers isn’t much of a problem. However, do I have room for five monitors, five keyboards, and five mice (or is that “mouses?”) on my shrinking desk? Absolutely not! Could I connect the same monitor, keyboard, and mouse to whatever computer I need at any given time? Possibly, if I enjoyed the prospect of powering one computer down, moving cables, plugging cables for the keyboard, monitor, and mouse to another computer, and then powering on the other computer every time I want to change computers. It’s also important to know that mechanically switching keyboards while power is applied may damage the electronics.

Whether you have two computers or five computers or you operate a commercial data center with hundreds of computers inside a professional computer center, you will always have a problem finding room for the monitors, keyboards, and rodents… un, mice. Another issue is the expense of purchasing multiple monitors. Large monitors are expensive! Yet, if I have one large monitor, I would like to use it on all my desktop computers. Luckily, there is an easy solution.

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