Mac Musings

Designing a Computer Room

Part 3

27 March 2000 - Daniel Knight -

There are a lot of factors involved in designing computer furniture. Will the computer sit on the desk or stand on the floor? Do you want a keyboard drawer? How big is your monitor? What other equipment should be within reach from your chair? I covered a lot of this in the previous column.

Umax J700I'm in the position of being able to pick between a desktop and a minitower - I can put my current system in a desktop J700 case or leave things in the S900 minitower. It takes a couple of hours to move all the components between the computers, but that's not a big deal.

On the other hand, I now have four of the six expansion slots full in my S900. Using the J700, which has only four PCI slots, means I'd have to pull a card to test a new PCI card. That's enough to tip things in favor of the S900.

For my office, access to the system board is important. How else will I be able to review PCI cards and CPU upgrades? For this reason, I don't want my computer on the floor or in some cubby beneath the work surface. It should be at a good working height, leaving the microphone and headphone jacks readily accessible, too.

For convenience, I want my computer to the left of my 19" monitor and workspace on the right.

Ever since our cable modem was installed, I've been getting by with an old computer worktable 48" wide and 26" deep. The monitor hangs several inches over the back, my keyboard sits immediately in front of the monitor, and there's no room for a wrist rest. This is a temporary setup, and my 18" deep computer sits on the floor for now. That's inconvenient for access to the CD-ROM, floppy, and sound ports, but it is temporary.

I've designed a computer table and provided the design to Tim, the contractor who installed our kitchen, a real craftsman. Here's what I've come up with:

The dimensions are approximate; I'll let the contractor worry about details, but we're looking at about 48" wide, 30" deep, 27" high. There's no keyboard shelf, no drawer, no hutch - just a large work surface. Ideally the top will be Formica to match what's used in the kitchen with 2" rounded hardwood around the edges, possibly cherry to match the kitchen cabinets. Again, I'm leaving the details on that to Tim.

I don't care whether the sides are solid, as in the illustration, or four separate legs. If the hardwood is to expensive, we might go with a different type of edge around the work top.

The one important thing is keeping the wires out of site. Looking through office supply catalogs, I saw that some included a purse shelf, which gave me the idea for a wire and UPS shelf. Instead of being accessible from the front, however, the front blocks view of the UPC and cables; all access is from the rear. It should look very nice, easily hold a 500 VA UPS, and provide some additional rigidity to the desktop.

The plan is three of these: one 30" deep, the other two 20" deep. One will site back-to-back with the main desk, holding my scanner, LaserJet, and possibly a future Epson Stylus Photo printer. The other will hold my wife's Canon MultiPASS c635 (printer, scanner, fax), typewriter, and PowerBook.

I think it's all going to work very nicely. The relatively narrow 48" desk means there's a lot less room for clutter to accumulate than on the 7' x 7' Ambassador desk I've been using for the last year, a great desk that's simply too big for the new computer room.

The key in all this isn't designing the perfect computer desk or office. There's no such thing. The key is designing the computer desk and office layout that meets your personal needs and fits the available space. I think I'll have that for several years with this setup. I'll provide more details when the tables are constructed.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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