RSI-UK Digest for 6 Dec 1998

Question: Hear… hear! It frightens me the total lack of interest in this subject. We seem to be heading headlong into a completely computer based society with no thought of the consequences. (Much as we became a society dependant on the motor engine without seeing the consequences)

Answer 1: I think this is unfair on computers (and cars!) Computers have transformed the world in many ways – often for the better. Look, for example at the advances in medical treatment which have been helped along by technology. And we can now communicate with people all over the world via email – this mailing list would not exist without computers! Nor would my job, for that matter…The RSI problem is not caused by the technology but by the misuse of it: employers and individuals not taking the issue of ergonomics and healthcare seriously. Just as we need an integrated transport policy that includes the private car, we need to embrace computers as a part of our everyday life, while being aware of the problems which may occur if you are not careful. I’ve suffered from RSI for many years, but blame myself, not the computer. A good workstation, ergonomic input resources and VR, good diet and a fitness routine all enable me to carry on my business. I work for myself so I’ve no one to sue!

Answer 2: I’ve no problem with computers helping me to do my job smarter – I just don’t want them to make me do it faster and at a personal cost I can’t afford – my brain can’t cope, nor can my arms (got back to work after 3 days away – 6 phone messages, 106 emails!).  In evolutionary terms it will be a few thousand years before we all firm up enough nerves and muscles to suit our computers (and by then they will no doubt have taken over the world!) but I don’t want to be the evolutionary
guinea pig!

Answer 3: Voice-recognition is developing so fast, it doesn’t seem all that likely that keyboard will be much used in the next century. Pointers are a different problem. IMO the pointer of the future has not yet been developed. Most people are still using essentially the same device that was developed at Xerox Parc in the 70s. It’s ridiculous. The thing should be banned on health grounds today. Better solutions would soon become standard if the mouse was not available. It’s not computers that are the problem, it’s the interface. I’ve been in computing since the mid-sixties. Input used to be done by punched cards. I never had any problem with RSI in those days — but what about the people who punched the cards? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that *they* were having symptoms. Before that had time to become an issue, the job and the equipment vanished. The same will probably happen with the stuff that’s causing us problems today.

Answer 4: How true. I’ve been in computing since the early 70s without problems but after 3 months on a project using Win95 development terminals I developed extreme pain in my mousing arm. Before that I’d spent many years using mice on Unix X windows systems and never had so much a twinge – I guess it’s the way the GUI demands you use the mouse with such intensity, clicking, dragging and dropping, etc, which wasn’t necessary the way I used Unix. Maybe the Mac wasn’t such a smart idea after all.

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