Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

7 lives of a decade-old trusty Apple Thunderbolt Display


On the last episode of No Office FM podcast my co-host, Rafal, asked me about a lonely display hanging on the wall behind me. He didn’t know why I had this display there. I had no good answer, until the weekend came and I figured it out. I gave my good old trusty, 10-year-old Apple Thunderbolt Display another, actually seventh, life! Just check out its history:

7 lives of a decade-old trusty Apple Thunderbolt Display

Life #1. External display for the MacBook Air

10 years ago, in December 2011, when MacBook Air was still my main computer and I only started flirting with becoming #iPadOnly, I bought this display to provide me with much needed additional screen real estate. You can see it in action in the episode #42 of my Productivity Show. In fact, initially I used this display’s packaging as my stand-up desk!

Life #2. Main display for the Mac Mini

Later in 2012 when I started embracing the #iPadOnly lifestyle, I got a Mac Mini as my home office computer and this display was perfect to rock this setup.

Life #3. Additional display for the MacBook Pro

In 2013 I caved and got myself a retina MacBook Pro 13” as the last personal computer I’d ever buy or need. I hooked up this display to it to extend my available screen real estate.

Life #4. Additional display for the iMac 5K

Two years later I caved again, and got myself an iMac 5K which I have in my home office to this day. Contrary to the iMac 5K screen, the Thunderbolt Display’s resolution wasn’t retina, but I still loved having an additional display on the side.

Life #5. Back to the MacBook Pro for my wife

At the same time my wife started flirting with #NoOffice lifestyle as her bosses let her do occasional teleworking, meaning she could work once a week from home. I set her up a nice home office in the corner of our bedroom with my old MacBook Pro and this display hooked into it. As she’s a lawyer and works on documents all day long, she really appreciated this setup.

Life #6. Back to my iMac 5K.

In 2019 my wife’s employer stopped supporting employee-owned Macs for teleworking and gave my wife a ThinkPad. I got her an external 27” 4K display from LG so the Thunderbolt Display was unemployed again. In the meantime my eldest daughter took ownership of the MacBook Pro and I hooked up the display to the iMac again, creating a special recording corner.

To do that, I had to buy a special adapter to be able to hang the display on the wall mount.

7 lives of a decade-old trusty Apple Thunderbolt Display 2

Life #7. External display for the 13” iPad Pro

Today we’re on the seventh life of this trusty display. Using a special Thunderbolt 2 to 3 adapter (which costs 50 bucks!) I managed to hook up my glorious iPad Pro 13” to it and use it as an external display.

7 lives of a decade-old trusty Apple Thunderbolt Display 3

I know that the iPadOS external display support is far from great, but this setup gives me three major benefits:

First - bigger perspective. When I want to look at what I’m doing from like a bigger perspective, I can just take a look up at the display. I know it’s not retina but it’s so far away from me that the screen is still perfectly readable but I don’t see the pixels anyway.

Second - watching station. When I open a video clip it does use the whole screen (see photo above) and the display’s external speakers which is a great viewing experience for my home office.

Third - more screen real estate. Some apps I use do support the external screen pretty well. Like MindNode or LumaFusion. Here’s hoping Apple will finally take external display support more seriously in the iPadOS16.

Giving additional lives to tech gadgets is tight!

Over the last decade this display has lived seven different lives and is still kicking! This is a great testament to this monitor’s build quality (congrats Apple!) and versatility. Yes, I had to buy an expensive dongle to connect it to my iPad but I didn’t need to buy a completely new monitor to be enjoying more screen real estate. It’s a win-win-win all around.

And how do you recycle your old computer gadgets?

Wednesday, December 22, 2021 /display/