Office Evolution

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History

Over the last 20 years there have been many, “Show us your workbench” threads on both the Parallax Forums as well as my original vBulletin-based forums. I remember one such thread in 2007 that really got me started on taking photos of my bench setup and sharing them with people who asked how my bench was set up.

2007

The very first photo I shared was from July of 2007 when I was working on a robot. I didn’t have very much space to work, using my older son’s old computer desk when he got a new, larger desk. At this time we had just moved to rental home in CA and I didn’t have the room for a larger bench (my computer desk was to the left, perpendicular to the one you see in the photo.

While I didn’t have room inside for a bigger bench, I did have room in the garage for a tall, metal-top bench, shown in the photos above. In these photos I was working on the Motor Mount & Wheel Kit (MMWK) demo platform.

2010

In 2010 my workbench setup at home hadn’t changed, however at work (Parallax), I had recently moved into a new office in engineering and had an opportunity to arrange things to try and make my workspace more efficient.

These two photos show the view of my office from the doorway. In these photos, I had just moved in, so it’s still quite a mess. You can see some of it cleaned up later in the first nine episodes of Savage///Circuits TV.

I would later redo the entire office. Though I don’t have any photos from the redo, you can see the revised office in this video I sent to Tektronix for a contest.

2011

In mid-2011 my late wife and I bought our first home in CA. This was a 4-bedroom home where one room was used as an office.

This was my initial setup, though it did morph a bit over time for various reasons. This setup shows the equipment I had at that time.

A little over a week later, I was already making changes, moving the bench to the right side of the room, instead of the left.

2014

In 2014, my late wife was facing the return of her cancer. At Stage 4, she was in a much worse state than the first time and I was faced with making some tough decisions. She really needed me to take care of her, but I worked 45 minutes away. I came up with a plan to do my job from my home office and this required me to come up with a new arrangement so I could work from home efficiently.

I completely switched up my workbench to be more reflective of how I worked in the office at Parallax and less like I had been doing at home. This involved installing a VOIP phone, a docking station for my work laptop and an extra monitor so I could keep the tech support email, forums and call screens handy no matter what I was working on. For over a year I did tech support and engineering all while taking care of my sick wife. Sadly, she passed in 2015. Behind the far left monitor is my personal desktop PC and my Battery Backup system. The cabinet holds all my bench hand tools.

One of the articles I wrote was, Tools of the Trade, which was published in Nuts and Volts magazine. I had my bench set up for the cover photo for that issue. The article was about all of the tools I use both as a hobbyist and as an engineer in the field of electronics and microcontrollers.

In this photo you can see the PC behind the far left monitor, which has the side off because this PC kept overheating when I played certain video games. On the right I added a small shelf to hold my PanaVise bench tools and some of the project cases. I also added a wall shelf to hold the DSL Modem, Buffalo NAS Drive and under it is a poster with Isaac Asimov’s, “Three Laws of Robotics”.

I also hung up a cable organizer for power supply and scope probes and related cables. There’s another on the left for USB cables. And of course, I had the 2015 Tektronix calendar.

2015

In early 2015 I moved my bench to the right once again to make room for a more dedicated setup for work on the left and my own stuff on the right. This meant moving my PC tower to that bench so the cables would reach both benches.

As you can see, I had also added another large scope to the bench as well as a second Agilent Programmable Power Supply. I really liked this setup.

You can see the wood surface of the new workbench to the left of my original bench. I can’t find a photo of that side, but the top was made from plywood, while the frame was made of 2″ aluminum tubing and had caster wheels. That bench was created by former Parallax employee and author of The Microcontroller Application Cookbook and The Microcontroller Application Cookbook, Vol. 2.

2016

In the wake of my late wife passing, I made the difficult decision to sell the home we shared as it was difficult to be there without her. Everything was a reminder of her. The estimate was my home would sell in a month. It was sold in a week, leaving me 30 days to get everything packed and moved.

I still had to be able to work, so I reduced my workbench down to simplest terms, then started to move all my electronics related items to my living room. Everything I didn’t need to use for work got piled out here to be packed for storage and transport later.

2017

This year saw me laid off from Parallax after 12 years and in the wake of my wife passing. I really had nothing left and so I moved to ID to make a new start.

While living here, I converted the upstairs master suite into my new office. This was the initial setup. My plan was to create something similar to the setup I had in CA, but more efficient. I used the shelf on the left for the cable modem, router, NAS drive and several external USB drives for backups. There is also a battery backup system for the modem, router and NAS.

In the middle photo you can see that the small table has both my gaming PC (Alienware) and my development PC. Each is connected to a battery backup unit underneath, and the desk has dual monitors. The desk provided me a place to do bills and other office work as well as programming. The bench on the right was where I worked on the hardware. The monitor on the hardware bench is for devices that have video output, such as the Raspberry Pi. It was also there as a larger view of my scope output.

A few months later I moved my gaming PC down into the den. This made my desk setup a bit more compact and streamlined things a bit. The toolbox was moved in place of the small table that once held both PCs. The bench now had room on each side. I also created a custom cover for my printer (HP LaserJet).

Having moved the bench away from the wall on the right, I was now able to hang my cable organizers up. Probes for two scopes and the signal generator as well as my USB cables were now organized and easily accessible.

2018

Sadly, I was promised work and income from the house I bought. But, nothing is guaranteed. Instead, everything fell through, causing me to burn through my savings until I had no choice but to sell my house, rather than lose it to foreclosure.

This meant getting everything ready to pack up and move again. So I started piling up my parts again to pack them into boxes for storage. With everything in storage, I shut down my website, sold most of my furniture and started traveling the United States in my RV. I did this for 6 months before settling back where it all started…NY.

Once I made the choice to settle back down in NY (mainly due to the effects of peripheral neuropathy), I had to go back for the things I had in storage. All that I had left were my bench and some tools that were in a storage unit in ID. So I drive all the way back across the states and then back again, towing a U-Haul trailer with all that I had left.

The first thing I did was set up my work bench. Fortunately, the bench breaks down pretty flat, but had to be put back together again. I set up my gaming PC as well as my productivity laptop that I had from the RV. I also set up my printer and my tools so I could do smaller projects until I could raise the money to start replacing my scopes and other test equipment, lost when I left ID.

The apartment I stayed in had a very small extra room which I used to setup a small office just for eBay related stuff. This way I could make some money to replace my lost test equipment and tools. The L-Shaped Glass Desk fit perfectly in this room, leaving me enough room to set up a small tray table for testing, and some shelves for storing things. I had two scales set up on the desk for measuring the weight of packages for shipment.

2020

Eventually I found a better job which meant moving, yet again. I moved two hours away to another apartment building.

The start of my office this time involved first getting a media rack set up. This rack contains my router on top. The shelf below has the cable modem, new NAS drive and external USB backup drive for the NAS. The next shelf down holds my Google Nest Hub Max.

The office is in the spare bedroom and this was my initial setup. By once again, combining everything into one work center seemed to take up a lot of space, but not avail me of all my resources.

Eventually I got around putting the rest of my stuff in that room. I added a third monitor, a 2.1 speaker system, my new test equipment and my Google Nest Hub. There’s a battery backup and even a Blu-Ray Player with streaming apps for entertainment.

This was a compact, yet full-featured workbench. However, as soon as I started working on projects I realized I didn’t have much room to work. The L-Shaped Glass Desk took up a lot of room and seemed to just attract clutter.

I brought the printer into this room, having built a new printer stand for it.

To the left of that was my metal storage shelf. Things quickly got cramped and even worse when I went to buy a laser cutter. And I still didn’t have a place to solder!

2022

I decided to split the system like I did in ID, moving my gaming PC out to the living room. I got a new bench and an extra monitor, since I took the third monitor from the office. I sold the L-Shaped Glass Desk.

Of course, this left the PC tower sitting on the step-stool and in the way of my coffee table, so I will be revisiting this soon.

2023

I had installed some development software on the gaming PC when I moved it out to the living room, since I stole a monitor and the sound system, I kind of left the office in disarray for a while.

It was some time later when I got back to working on my office space. In between, my laser cutter / engraver arrived.

I also installed a dedicated development PC. With the xTool Laserbox Rotary installed, you’ll notice moved my metal shelf to the back wall.

I decided to do like I did in CA and set up shelving to hold the networking stuff as well as some knick-knacks and power connections. I also added a battery organizer and another cable organizer rack.

I still don’t like the electrical power connections.

More cable organizer racks to install.

Once I got the electrical wiring the way I wanted it, it was time to get the bench back together.

Now that the bench is set up the way I want it and the shelves are organized, here is a video pan of the new workspace.

I added a small desk for my soldering station, however it ended up covered with everything that was piled on the bench. I really need to sort this stuff out. My old printer served me well for years, but started acting up, so I got a newer one. The door behind the printer is a small closet where I have stored some parts, including all my project enclosures, as well as solar panels and other stuff.

I decided to revisit the gaming PC bench in the living room, since the PC was sitting on a step-stool and things weren’t very organized. I found a wire shelf unit at Lowe’s that could handle the extreme weight of this Alienware PC Case. I was also able to put the Battery Backup unit on it, as well as the power supplies for the monitors and even an external USB backup drive.

There’s plenty of room now that the PC is behind the bench. There’s room for the Battery Backup, and after this photo was taken, an external USB backup drive was stored down here as well as some cables for the drives (USB and P/S).

I got this Sabrent USB Hub from Amazon and it makes it easy to connect the plethora of USB drives and my phone / tablet to this PC without having to get at the ports on the tower, now behind everything. Yet, it is still easy to get to it if I need to.

With any luck, my wife and I will be moving into our new home soon. When we do, I will have to start over again, so there will be a new traunch of photos of the new office. Stay tuned!

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