Saturday, May 14, 2005

Typewriter sparked workplace revolution - Alan Hedge

Every spring, my students in the Applied Ergonomics Methods course in the Design & Environmental Analysis Department at Cornell University work as a team on projects that take them outside of the normal university classroom environment. A recent visit to The History Center in Tompkins County to honor a group of Ithaca High School Student Historians, including my daughter Elizabeth, sparked this year's project because I happened to notice a Sholes-Glidden typewriter on display in The History Center's collections.

This typewriter began a technological and societal revolution that changed the world and set the standard for modern computer keyboards. It greatly increased the productivity of workers; it eliminated problems of "writer's cramp," and for the first time it allowed women to enter the office workforce in large numbers. Today's standard keyboard layout began as this typewriter design over one hundred years ago. This offered a great opportunity for my ergonomics students to develop a virtual exhibit highlighting the most significant typewriter models in the remarkable collections at The History Center and to also learn about the origins of modern computer keyboards.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ithaca and its surrounding towns played important roles in typewriter design and production. So an opportunity for my class to undertake "hands on" project work that combined learning how to handle and research historical artifacts with documenting the historical design significance of original typewriter models, and also implementing ergonomic interface design principles to create an accessible Web site was an exciting project for my students. (Via ithacajournal)

Old Typewriter - User Interface Design, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Ergonomics

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