Ergonomics and Electronics

The Ergonomics of Electronics

Remember the word ergonomics? It was big in the nineties. It was defined as: the study of fitting a job to a person. It helped lessen muscle fatigue, increased productivity and reduced musculoskeletal disorders.

When I began my university career there was a great deal of talk about ergonomics. I was given a choice of an Apple or an MS-DOS computer and an ergonomic set up similar to the one in this picture.


It was perfect: I didn’t have to bend my head to look at the screen, my wrists were straight, my lower back was supported, my knees were at a 90 degree angle. My musculoskeletal system was in fine shape.

However, when it was time to replace that first computer I was given more options. A newfangled device called a laptop had come on the market. At first I couldn’t believe that all my stuff could fit on such a small and easy to transport device. Where was the tower? How could I carry it back and forth from home to office? After much agony I decided to give it a try. The laptop, too, was wonderful. I wrote my way to tenure in my bed, on a picnic, at the lake and in a car. I even wrote while flying through the air.

Now I also work on an iPad and an iPhone. Neither of these devices are the least bit ergonomic. If my eyes are at screen level my wrists are up near my ears. If my wrists are straight my neck is at a 90 degree angle. Lumbar support? Forget about it. My knees can be at any angle.

I have begun to look around at the posture of others as they use their electronic devices. Here, for example, is a picture of my grandson Alex hard at work playing Minecraft.

Ergonomic experts would shudder.


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