06/28/05

Ergonomic Notebooks – A Challenge for Any Designer

49 million notebooks sold worldwide – this is the finding of the US marketing research institute IDC. In Western Europe alone, the share of mobile computers is to increase by another 20 per cent. The manufacturers may rejoice in such figures. Experts for ergonomics such as Alan Hedge, head of the ergonomics laboratory at the Cornell University New York, however, are concerned about users’ health since notebooks may cause postural deformities, inflammations and even impotence. Ergonomically well-designed notebooks are therefore a challenge for any designer.

 

More and more employees are permanently working with notebooks instead of desktop computers.  They may be very flexible but from an ergonomic point of view notebooks have disastrous effects when permanently in use.

"When you take a look at the design you quickly realize that it was never intended to replace desktop computers by notebooks", says Alan Hedge of the Cornell University to the US media. Hedge is the head of the ergonomics laboratory. "The basic concept was portability for occasional use. It was never intended to work on the device eight hours a day, 52 days a year.

A major problem when permanently in use is the small distance between keyboard and screen. This causes the user to sit either ducked over the device or to set the monitor at eye level – this is a torture for arm and shoulder muscles. Also the wrists are strained and stressed exceedingly: on account of the small keyboard you have to contort your wrists in an unnatural way. A sensation of numbness in your hands may be the result of your position in front of the notebook. Regarding these facts designers might attend more intensely to the concept of notebook stations, where notebook and screen are arranged ergonomically.