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Input Device Ergonomics Through the Years

The computer is one of the most versatile inventions known to man. Initially conceived as a device for calculation, it has practically taken over the world. People depend on their computers so much that their lives would get crippled if things experience a major shut down. The advancements it has made along with the internet allowed the simplification or streamlining of certain processes. Take banking as an example. One of their services is to offer home loans that people can take advantage of if they want to finance their properties. Before you had to physically be present when your payment is due, but today you can just log on to their website to do that. Thanks to the online component, branch interoperability has also improved drastically.

You, as the user, provide the computer commands using an input device. There is a whole industry dedicated to computer peripherals that fall under that category. Over the decades, there has been a lot of innovation and improvements. People have logged increasing hours of usage. Bad posture and repetitive movements presented the need for good ergonomics in these devices. Here are some of the most used and how they have evolved over the years.

Keyboards

When you look at your keyboard, you will notice how the keys are all laid out. The modern QWERTY standard was created by Christopher Latham Sholes in the 1870s, but actually, the typewriter manufacturer E. Remington and Sons also deserve a mention. The final layout submitted by Sholes did not include the letter R in the first row, and it was the Remington company that placed it there after making their own refinements. Apparently, this move was a sales strategy. They wanted to showcase the ability to type out the phrase “type writer quote” using just one row to potential buyers. You can say that the QWERTY layout was one of the first attempts at making typing friendly to your hands.

The general physical form of the keyboard has stayed the same: It is just a plain rectangular board with alphanumeric keys. That is not to say there weren’t any attempts at breaking the mold. There are some niche products out there if you look hard enough, like those that split in half so both your hands have more freedom of movement. Some preserve the one-piece form and have each half tilted diagonally so you do not have to angle keep your wrist position at an angle when typing.

All in all, many people out there are just fine with having the option to raise the keys. Other than that, the most significant addition in recent times is probably the palm rest. It is a simple addition, but it makes sense for ergonomics because prevents you from tilting your hands upwards, which could put a strain on your wrists.

Mouses

 

The mouse is the primary pointing device of the computer. Its ergonomic characteristics are mostly dependent on your posture. As long as you have your arm tilted up and higher than your elbow, you will have a comfortable experience using it. That said, companies also try to refine their designs further.

There are mice that are shaped so you can rest your palm on it vertically as if you are about to shake someone else’s hand. The wrist is probably the most overworked when dealing with handheld devices, and this is one design where you do not have to make the effort of tilting or rotating it. You can also find mice that have a lot of buttons in them, though this is mainly aimed at the gaming crowd. But it would be cool to use one that has numeric keys on the side because that will save you time moving your hand between mouse to keyboard.

Game Controllers

Some of the early home computers were made by Atari and Commodore, and they were also known as video game companies. That said, their machines back then not only let you code simple programs, they let you play with them too. In the early 80s, the primary control device was the joystick. Its form is iconic — It is just a square base, with a stick right in the middle and just one button. At the time, it was all the gamers needed. You will later come to the realization that the ergonomics of it leaves a lot to be desired. The base is too light, so you have to grab the base to move the stick around, and doing that can lead to cramping your hands.

Things improved as Nintendo came along and introduced the directional pad to the home console market. It was an innovation originally seen in their Game & Watch handhelds. At that time, computers did not really have any prominent equivalent, although its customizable nature did allow you to plug any kind of input peripherals. A standard controller for the PC, or the closest thing to it, would arrive after Microsoft released the Xbox 360. This was their second console ever, and it came with a controller that many people praise for its ergonomics. Its grips were large enough for both large and small hands, and its round shape was easy to hold. The two analog sticks are placed in an offset layout, and this is designed to have both your thumbs rested in a natural position.

When you are using your computer, it is important to be conscious about the ergonomics of the input devices. You do not want to develop chronic pain conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. The great thing is, the companies manufacturing these peripherals are always looking for ways to improve on their design, so they can make you feel comfortable even during prolonged use.

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