This was written for the series of <Thinktag> columns I did for Firmware, this was May 1998 when you could brag about a 21 inch screen.
I’ve just bought a new 21 inch monitor. And before I go further, I must tell you that I’m quite happy with its image quality. Monitors being the ubiquitous peripherals that they are, I didn’t need the slim multi-lingual manual that came with it to install it. As I was filing the manual away (it’s a strange obsession I have – someday I’ll bequeath the lot to The Smithsonian and I bet they’ll be grateful for the only manual to go with their 1977 Synchrodeck standard-8mm sprocketed tape synchronizer), I flipped through it. This small paragraph in italic text leapt out.
“In the event that display distortion is incurred due to magnetic field interference, face the monitor to the east for the best display quality.”
Now, while I’ve never experienced the interference problem myself, being of rational bent, I can believe that our planet’s North-South magnetic fields could have an effect on the way my monitor throws its electrons at the screen. I also supposed that aligning it across those magnetic fields might have some effect if there was a problem, but the manual was specific. Face it East.
Something else was going on and I needed to get to the bottom of it.
The monitor is from Acer and made in Taiwan, and while I’m sure the company appreciates the sales in Australia, I’m guessing that the bulk of their production are sure to end up in the USA. The other languages in the manual are German, French, Italian and Spanish, all northern hemisphere countries. From there, both physically and metaphorically, Taiwan is East. The suggestion of pointing the monitor towards ‘home’ quickly made me realise what was behind the idea. This had nothing to do with technology and it was all tied into the ancient Chinese practice of Feng Shui.
You’ve heard about Feng Shui I’m sure. You’ll know there is considerable attention paid in Asia to how the walls, doorways and stairs are aligned so that good luck and financial success doesn’t run out the door, and at a personal level the careful siting of mirrors and windows are supposed to help your sex life in the bedroom.
I have an advertising art-director friend in Singapore, John Finn, who related the story of one of their clients, a major new hotel that had been built there a year or two before. Apparently it was designed by one of the popular French architects of the day, and appeared in all the architecture magazines, winning awards etc. Despite the acclaim, the hotel was losing money. The locals put it down to the bad vibes and called in the top Feng Shui team to give it a makeover. My friend took great delight in leading me through the glass front entrance (which had been re-set at a strange angle to the street), and asking me to find the reception desk. After suggesting all the obvious positions and being wrong, I was lead through the foyer, around the stairs and past the lifts almost to the back of the building. Feng Shui dictated that that was the most propitious place for the welcome desk, and so that was where it was built. Apparently it worked, as the fortunes of the hotel haven’t looked back. He obviously believed in it, and I reserved judgement.
Now here I was seeing Feng Shui being applied to something so rooted in the rational digital world as my computer.
Besides the difficulty in re-organising my desk so that I could actually see the monitor if I faced it East, I wondered if the beneficial effects would carry over into my other peripherals and software. If I aligned my laser printer would it fix the interminable paper jams from pages that skew sideways? If I pointed my accounting package Quicken, away from my door, would my finances improve? Would the RAM go faster if the SIMS were aligned differently? What about the resolution on my scanner? Would there be fewer errors on the Zip drive? What about screen desk icon placement? Should I disturb the possums in the roof and relay the cables on my local network?
Obviously in the absence of any I.T. Feng Shui consultants we need a self-help book, a Complete Dummies Guide to Digital Feng Shui. I’ll offer to write it since I thought of it, and although I don’t know much about the subject, I’ve got shelves of Taiwanese product manuals as a unique research source. I see it as being part of a long series of books because there are implications here for other systems of belief. For example, should the faithful turn their mouse-mats towards Mecca three times a day?
I’ve got the proposal for the publisher just about finished and I’ll email it today. I’m sure I’ll make millions if I can just line up my modem the right way when I send it.
While you’re waiting for the book, for a source of real information on Feng Shui (pronounced fong schway) as always, see the definitely non-aligned Web. Yahoo has a list of over fifty web sites related to the topic at www.yahoo.com.au (Don’t bother in 2018)