Today marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the IBM PC. It wasn’t the first personal computer – Xerox, Apple, Commodore, and many others had introduced various versions of personal computers years earlier. But its relative affordability, its ability to run many different programs, and its incorporation of third-party components made it the first PC to be widely adopted.
Obviously, this gadget has had a huge impact on office life.
On the plus side, computers have:
- enhanced personal and business productivity
- freed us from mundane and repetitive tasks like filling out paper spreadsheets and re-typing written documents
- made data entry, data manipulation, and data analysis much easier
- automated routine business processes
- enhanced business decision making
- improved communication
- permitted telecommuting and other work innovations
- with the introduction of the internet, brought the wisdom of the entire world to our office and home
On the other hand, the widespread use of computers has lead to:
- epidemic levels of aches and pains:
- carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
- repetitive strain injuries (RSIs)
- thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)
- back pain and injuries
- shoulder pain and injuries
- neck pain and injuries
- hip pain and injuries
- temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction
- eye strain
- etc. etc. etc.
- ever-increasing expectations of increased productivity
- anti-productivity due to information overload and ensuing attention deficit disorder
- high levels of stress and anxiety
- risk of disease and premature death due to sedentary work-style
On balance, I think most people would agree that personal computers offer a net gain to society, “increasing social capital by enhancing personal productivity,” as Apple put it in their famous ad when the IBM PC came out: Welcome, IBM. Seriously. But it behooves us all to bear in mind – and to proactively address – the hazards to our personal health and fitness that computers have created.