[This fragment is available in an audio version.]

Let me guess: You spend a lot of time in front of a computer, to which is attached a large high-resolution outboard screen, and you’re over 40, and you have glasses on your face. A lot of you will already know this, but if you don’t, run not walk to the nearest optometrist, get your eyes checked, and order a set of “computer glasses”. Trust me on this.

If you’re wearing “reading glasses” · You should go get an eye checkup anyhow, so you can get computer glasses, but also because an eye checkup can find out all sorts of problems that might become serious if untreated, like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Also, they’re pretty cheap, most places.

My eyes are decent for someone past sixty: Galloping presbyopia (“age-related farsightedness”) which has gradually extended far enough that my prescription is for progressive lenses with a mild long-distance boost.

Two pairs of glasses resting on a computer keyboard

Smaller yet bigger · To illustrate the problem, check out the picture above: My ordinary everyday glasses on the left, computer glasses on the right. When I first looked at the picture after taking it I was shocked, because I’d been convinced that the computer glasses were much the bigger of the two, which they’re not. I was fooled because the proportion of my everyday glasses that works at screen distance is pretty small, and located way down in the lower half of the lens. On the computer glasses, the proportion is 100%.

Which means that on my big 4K outboard screen, when I want to glance at the top right corner to check out the time of day, I had to bend my neck way back to get the glasses in the right place so I could read the numbers. When I was working on a blog piece in one window and editing a photo in another I was forever swiveling around to aim the glasses’ tiny sweet spot. A big IDE window with panes for code, project files, debug output, and so on was a problem too. I kept increasing font sizes, but that’s really not a good solution.

With the computer specs, things are just dramatically better, and I’ve turned the fonts back down, and I just do everything faster, and I know what time it is at a glance.

Now, for a laptop down on my lap, the everyday glasses work just fine, which is a good thing because I probably want to switch attention between that and the ball game or costume drama on the big screen across the room.

How to do it · First, grab a tape measure, then sit down and and measure the distance between your eyes and the screen. Then, go to the optometrist and get that examination, then go to a good glasses merchant and show them your prescription and tell them the measurement and say you want computer glasses.

Um, I don’t pretend to be a fashion consultant, but do bear in mind that these glasses are going to feature prominently in all those videoconferences.

I’ll be honest, this is my biggest quality-of-life improvement in several years.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Sam Penrose (Mar 04 2022, at 13:48)

Thank you for this kindness, Tim.


From: Robert Sayre (Mar 04 2022, at 13:50)

All true, although I don't need the glasses yet. It will happen eventually, though.

But, the other big improvement here is to get the newer Apple Magic Keyboard. The arrow keys are worse, but everything else is much better.


From: Scott S (Mar 04 2022, at 15:37)

Great suggestion. I just told my optometrist I needed something between the reading adjustment and the distance rx and she asked the distance and tested out a second adjustment for my rx. Worked great never going back to progressives at the computer.


From: Dennis Doubleday (Mar 04 2022, at 17:20)

Did that years ago and the result was much less neck strain and dizziness. Now I often wear the computer glasses for laptop use as well, not just big screen.


From: Dave Pawson (Mar 04 2022, at 23:41)

Good suggestion Tim. My judgement is a full arms length. Eye test, then 2.5 added to the axis metric.

Been having this 'extension' for a few years now and it works well.


From: Stuart Dootson (Mar 05 2022, at 05:14)

I did that a few years, after realising that a) I needed glasses for working, and b) my existing glasses (for driving) weren’t the answer!

Our optician (UK - we don’t tend to call them ophthalmologist…) understood what I needed, sorted me out & I’ve been so much better off since then.


From: Chris (Mar 05 2022, at 12:16)

Just got a pair of "computer" glasses because my reading glasses weren't cutting it - the focus point for the readers was around 18", while my screens are generally 24" or so away.

Called my optician to see what I needed, and he mentioned that the prescription I had included "Add +2.5", and each .25 changes the focal point around 2". So to go from 18" to 24" I changed my add to +1.5 and they work much better.


From: Tim (but not THE Tim) (Mar 05 2022, at 18:51)

nthing this idea. I did this some years ago. My problem is that for most things I do sitting at my computer, the progressive lenses do an "adequate" job and so I forget to switch!


From: Rob (Mar 06 2022, at 03:18)

But do you know how much computer classes cost these days?


From: Beth Macknik (Mar 06 2022, at 09:58)

I can thank a great optician for setting me up with computer to reading distance progressives many years ago. I can use the same glasses for working at the desktop, the laptop, or reading a Kindle while lying in bed. My “regular” glasses are pretty much relegated to driving or other out-of-the-house activities.


From: hawkse (Mar 07 2022, at 03:01)

OT but @Robert Sayre:

I'm sure the new keyboard might have a nice feel but it looks awful compared to the one picture. Also, built-in battery sucks. Much prefer the AA:s.

Same goes for the Magic Touchpad.


From: Robert Sayre (Mar 07 2022, at 12:18)

Well, I based my opinion on having used both for many years. The newer one is better because the rise is about half as high, as there's no disposable battery. The keys are nicer, too.

The layout is also much more similar to the newer laptops, so there's less mistyping on either. When the battery runs out (I use my every day, and it happens every 2-3 months), you just plug in your friendly neighborhood iPhone cable for about an hour, and keep typing.

I expect they will make a nicer new one that looks exactly like the MacBook Air keyboard, but who knows when.


From: Byron Adams (Mar 07 2022, at 16:05)

At first I was using cheap reading glasses, but knew I needed to get my eyes checked. They said I needed 2.0 lens, but I had trouble reading when I moved my head side to side. I told them that besides reading I needed them for working on a computer. Then they told that I needed progressive glasses.

I went online and did some research of my own. I read how they will suggest the progressive so they can make more $. I learned to pick the lowest magnification that works without straining the eyes. I returned and had them replace the 2.0 lens with 1.0. Now all is well.


From: Chris (Mar 08 2022, at 10:34)

A 32" 4k monitor impulse treat just made me (53yrs) do exactly the same. I wish I'd have done it years ago! Just so much more relaxing!


From: Thom Hickey (Mar 23 2022, at 18:40)

Good idea, I’ve had them for years. Also have a pair of bifocal shop glasses.

Couldn’t comment using Chrome on my new pixelBook, only the puzzle question showed on the.screen.



From: Thom Hickey (Mar 24 2022, at 06:48)

Commenting from my pixelBook Go appears to be working fine now.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

March 04, 2022
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