Eben’s desk

Lifehacker readers will have spotted that yesterday’s “This is How I Work” came to you from Eben’s unusually tidy desk. (He’d swept his enormous pile of papers, dust and mugs onto the floor before taking the picture, to join the old cycling shorts and the box of old copies of Retro Gamer.) A couple of you emailed us to ask if there was a higher-resolution picture of the desk than the one Lifehacker used, because you were curious about what the books at the back were.

Eben’s desk. Click to embiggen.

So here’s a higher-res picture – still not great, for which you’ll have to blame that Blackberry that he mentions in the Lifehacker interview – just for CSC and David. And I can confirm that the desktop selection of books was not added to, nor were any books removed, for the photograph. Which gives you a horrible window into the state of Eben’s soul. I’ll leave it to you to identify them in the comments, because it’s fun; if you get stuck on one, I’ll add to this post later.


Matthew Manning avatar

How long did it take Eden to get the desk looking “just right”?

liz avatar

Not long; just had to move some papers and mugs and replace them with Pis!

jrmedd avatar

Moondust! Excellent book that I had to stop reading before bed recently. It got my brain FAR too excited/bewildered about space when I was supposed to be going to sleep.

Nerd Uno avatar

Seeing the Saturn V sitting on Eben’s desk reminded me of growing up listening to static test firings of the Saturn V moon rocket in Huntsville. They basically strap the Saturn V to the ground and then ignite the rockets. So the whole city shakes for a couple minutes instead of just those riding inside the Saturn V. The noise sounds much like the end of the world is upon us. There’s nothing quite like it. Glad to see someone else reaching for the stars!

Lactobacillus avatar

Satrun V? There is no Saturn 5, only a Space Shuttle …

What is the Lego on the right side of the Shuttle?

liz avatar

L-R, that’s the Rockefeller Center and Fallingwater from the Architecture Series. He’s also got the Robie House, the Farnsworth house and a Korean gate whose name I forget! (Not to mention quite a lot of the original series Space LEGO; there’s an LL928 on his desk at home.)

Kayo Michiels avatar

If he wanted to place a Saturn V in the same prportion as the Space Suttle it would not even fit on the desk!

Nerd Uno avatar

My bad. Old age. :-)

James avatar

I want one of those blank boards so bad!
also. One of the pis looks like it has some kind of “sd card extension” and one looks like it has a extra gpio

eben avatar

That is because it is BOARD NUMBER ONE, the unsold final board in last year’s final auction (the winning bidder turned out to be “Maximum Walrus, 1 Main Street, New York”, and the mechanics of offering it to the runner up stumped us).

tzj avatar

Now that is something for QI !

edwin jones avatar

Airsoft 6mm BBs? Is Eben an airsofter or just building a pi powered weapon?

eben avatar

The former, but only occasionally. And Liz is the real crack shot, having been a competitive target shooter at a young age.

SpinDizzy avatar

Is there anything Liz hasn’t done?

liz avatar

Incest and folk dancing.

edwin jones avatar

Wow, it’s more popular than I though! I’ve got an Army R85 and a GnG MOE myself alongside a full set of DPM everything.

You should come down to Surrey to try some of our sites, we have some blumming good ones. I just hope you haven’t succumbed to the lure or multicam…

omenie avatar

Uncannilty, Moondust still sits unread on my bookshelf, but for a week has been earmarked as ‘next’ once I’m through the Amber Spyglass (yes, I know, it’s for kids … )

omenie avatar

Uncannilty? Nice new word I invented there …

Stu avatar

Dell E6220?

Andrew avatar

I diagnose an O’Reilly deficiency. Take two extra magenta, two dark blue and a teal for a more balanced diet.

Davespice avatar

Are those Air-Soft pellets?

Jon "maddog" Hall avatar

I like the book on Lex and Yacc…a classic

Jim Manley avatar

Check out the sequel (or is it SQL?), Elks and Yak! :D

Michael avatar

I notice an extended metal SD card holder on the apparently production model Pi in the centre. Surely Eben didn’t break the nice plastic one and have to replace it?

Elliot avatar

What would MacGuyer do? :D There’s a good book when you’ve a couple of minutes to kill…

tbar avatar

And it looks to be the one used the most…

OJ avatar

Just how many 13Amp Sockets does one person need?

Dave Akerman avatar

Always, always, always, more than you thought.

Richard Urwin avatar

My old bedroom was in the house my Dad designed and built, and he asked me how many sockets I needed. I had 22 sockets in that room, and I still used two extension blocks.

Robert_M avatar

at least one more than you currently have.

Ravenous avatar

The forum should have a “Readers’ desks” section!

Dr. Mouse avatar

What’s the other SBC on his desk? I see 2 Pis, but there’s another with an orange RCA port which is something else. No particular reason other than I’m curious.

Ravenous avatar

The orange connector is on an alpha version I think….


Oh, for an even earlier version see:


Dr. Mouse avatar

Thanks, it is indeed an alpha board. I didn’t think it was a Pi due to port positioning.

Adam Watkin avatar

MOONDUST was an amazing book giving me a rare glimpse into the lives of what I think are amazing people.

ASG 6m 0.2g BBs, I think Eben is an airsofter!!! Well done that man, its more popular than I realised!!

Dave Rensberger avatar

I have the Lex and Yacc book on my desk too. Haven’t opened it in years!

Davespice avatar

Also… the left most book… is that Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks?! =)

liz avatar

Oh, good spot.

Davespice avatar

I think I deserve a prize for getting that!

Glen avatar

Greg Eagan – Permutation City(?)

eben avatar


Tasty_Pi avatar

Charlies Wilsons war – a superb account of America’s ‘interest’ in Soviet occupied Afghanistan.

Marc avatar

“Zero Base Policy”

Budgeting and politics. Hmmm

Rob Smith avatar

It should be bedtime reading for those who aspire to govern Britain in the future.

— Amazon

alex avatar

That looks well under control. My desk is a lot less tidy than that, but I never sit at it to work. All computer work is done on a modified Poang chair (better back support) with a custom laptop desk I made. The main desk is a dumping ground for works in progress. Currently 2 Pis 2 Gertboards a Quick2Wire board, a prototype board I’m developing, 3 breadboards, a servo-powered RasPi.TV flag and lots of other bits and pieces in and out of boxes. Also a HiFi amp and a printer. Sounds like a lot. Must be why there’s no space to put things on it. :) I only tidied up a few days ago too.

Adrian avatar

OK, who is hiding round the corner? Top left – sure that’s a shoulder with an arm & possibly an ear with some greying hair…..

David avatar

Does Eben plays Airsoft (0.20 bb) ?

Russell Barnes avatar

Moondust was a very interesting read :)

Terry C avatar

Is that a USB Type A / HDMI stick?
Looks like the format of an MK802, but not exactly.
Humm, what are we working on?

Duncan avatar

An old design idea for the raspberry Pi, a very early prototype.

John Beetem avatar

Oops, I screwed up one of the links in the last message. Preview and/or Edit would be nice :-)

Perhaps expectations vary depending on which side of the the pond you’re on, but I find Eben’s desk uncharacteristically tidy for an engineer. Proper engineers have desks like the late Bob Pease and Jim Williams and these examples of creative chaos.

James avatar

WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!! No corner office!

fos avatar

I have lexx and yacc on my ready shelf. It is a carry over from my days with MWC Coherent. Nice desk!

Fergus Byrne avatar

What model lego space craft is that? It doesn’t seem to be for sale any more?

Frank avatar

That would be either set 10213 or the updated version – the other one had some stability issues – set 10231.

That last link is to shop.lego.com – it is sold out there though, so if you were to want it, you may have to search a bit further.

Paul H avatar

Is that the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy on the left?

stick avatar

Why the lego model of Fallingwater? Frank Lloyd Wright designed that in two hours.

exartemarte avatar

I’d like to have seen it as it was – I’ve long been convinced that a tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind. And didn’t a piece of research some years ago find that people with apparently chaotic desks could generally retrieve information more rapidly than those who methodically filed things away?

(Also, in a past life, I used to manage engineering workshops. I soon realised that conspicuously clean and tidy workshops were ones in which not very much work got done.)

Andrew Scheller avatar

No pictures of Liz or Mooncake? ;-)

Ray_GTI-R avatar

No mention of BOINC?

Know avatar

I am going to ask the question everyone really wants to know and we demand answers. How much time is spent on work and how much time is spent playing with the lego? :P

tai viinikka avatar

I see you also have a multimeter, Eben, the Tenma 72-7925. I prefer these newfangled ones with USB output so I can fake a datalogger, in a pinch. Cheers!

And thanks for all the pi.

Geeus avatar

Getting to the inner workings of eben mind by the contents of his desk. Or just a exposition of Pi through the ages. :)

hicksonj avatar

The cockpit of the spaceshuttle looked pixelated, until I realised it was lego. Duuhh!

Ravenous avatar

That’s why they used to call it The Flying Brickyard :)


Andres Rodriguez avatar

I do share the interest in Lego and in space programs, so I like to see the Space Shuttle model and Moondust. I enjoyed a lot reading this book in 2006, after buying it during a visit to London that year.

(Please disregard any idiomatic mistake)

Robert_M avatar

Oh, great…

I try my best to stay away from Lifehacker. It’s an Internet Event Horizon for me. Thirty seconds after clicking on the article, above, I have a half-dozen more Lifehacker tabs open…

I swear! I didn’t click them! They just seem to multiply, inexplicably!

johnny P avatar

I wonder if I’m the only idiot to spent 10 seconds wondering why the shuttle’s nose cone had
to be pixelated !?!

My own Homer Simpson moments make me smile………..Doh!

Jim Manley avatar

Desk? What is this concept called “desk” of which you write? Oh, you mean that Horizontal Storage Surface? I haven’t seen mine in decades, especially since my entire world can be accessed from my Pi-top/Pi-dock (being even lighter and cooler than a laptop, it’s much more comfortable to actually remain on my lap).

There’s a definite archaeological and generational divide associated with the Legos. My generation’s desks have detailed styrene models of the Shuttle, Apollo/Saturn V, Lunar Excursion Module, various aircraft, and perhaps some ships, and our parents might have had carved wooden versions of aircraft and ships.

As for books, you can’t possibly be a serious software practitioner without a copy of the UK’s own Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”(or the collection of short stories that included the original genesis of the “2001” plot, “The Sentinel”).to remind yourself of how horribly things can go wrong when the technology you’ve developed becomes, in Clarke’s words, “sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic”.

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