I was watching an old movie yesterday - The Front Page, with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, based on the play written about eighty years ago. I recommend it. The significant point here is, however, that at one point in the film the diminuative fugitive from the law hides himself in a roll-top desk - and seeing that, I remember that once upon a time I had dearly wanted to own one of those.
My uncle had one, and I loved the feel of it - the polished wood, the rolling lid that would come down and lock, the enclosed writing space and all the little drawers. I imagined myself filling drawers like those with pens, pencils, erasers, little rulers and geometry tools, clips, clamps, tape, little bottles of paint, brushes and a dozen other things. Tools that would I use for writing, and making maps, and drawing tables and painting miniatures for combats yet to come.
At this stage in my life, where with a little scrimping and saving, I could afford a desk like this. But I will never buy one. The computer has killed it.
I no longer have any use for any of the drawers. I don't draw maps by hand, I don't work with sheafs of paper, I don't need clips to hold them together and I don't have miniatures anymore - the computer does it all. Every graphic design need I have is managed - with superiority - by the glowing screen and my deft, easy movements with the mouse. I don't even write with pen and paper any more. Once, I had a massive callus on the middle finger of my right hand. I would show it to people, who would open their eyes and whisper, "wow ..." as it was the size of a raisin. I built it up through thousands of hours with pen, scratching out pages and pages of material for fiction writing and for D&D. But it's gone now. I rarely use a pen more than once a week now - and it always feels strange to have one in my hand.
Moreover, the rolltop desk isn't designed for a computer. It isn't deep enough and it isn't wide enough - none that I have seen would be. I need space for the keyboard, the tower, the two monitors I always work with, the mouse pad, the desk lamp, the books piled on both sides of the keyboard and mousepad that I'm referring to as I create, the extra lap-top when one more screen is required ... and my coffee. Working on anything is a complicated, crushed dance that demands I don't spill my drink into anything critical - which doesn't always work out.
I am a modern designer. I apply all the same features of design to the game that I ever did when I was designing layout for magazines ten years ago - awful, thankless work that it was (avoid if at all possible). It is getting simpler in that with the scanner I have (something else that wouldn't fit on a roll-top desk, not to mention the printer), the books are more practical to digitalize and then refer to on-screen. Not always, but more and more often - as scanners have softly improved over the years.
So the process isn't nostalgic, it isn't comforting and homelike, it is brutally technological and getting moreso by the decade. I need a room twice the size of the one I'm working in now just to stretch out and get comfortable - which isn't going to happen anytime soon.
What would be really fabulous would be a room so large that the desk where I always worked was automatically at the head of a table that would seat at least eight to ten people. Where I could swivel one of the screens around and start playing without having to schlep my books or modify my daily workstation.
Sadly, I live in an apartment, with a marvellous view of the downtown core, immediate convenience to the heart of the city and without any rooms of real dimension. It's all about trade-offs.
Still, I might get it together to move into a house someday, with a very large, single-roomed basement. Sounds like heaven to me.