Set aside your high-tech interests for a moment to consider a somewhat more low-tech subject: furniture.
Furniture has been around pretty much since the first caveman decided he'd rather sit on a rock than plunk down on the bare ground.
Of course, furniture has improved over the eons -- except for the seats in bus stations and airports, which remain roughly as comfortable as that original rock.
Unfortunately, the development of furniture aimed at people who spend a lot of time in front of their personal computers still seems stuck in the Stone Age.
There is, to be sure, a growing variety in the kinds of furnishing available to hold your computer and its accessories. Some are quite fancy and expensive; others are mostly particleboard with wood-grain vinyl coverings.
You can now get computer desks designed to fit against the wall, desks designed to squeeze into a corner, desks designed to hide away between hinged doors and desks that wheel into the closet when you're not using them.
But despite the wide selection, these desks are almost always ill-suited for the job they're supposed to do.
I don't know who designs this stuff, but I don't think they use a computer to do it. Otherwise, they would never make the desks that they do.
The biggest problem seems to be that desk designers haven't come to grips with the fact that computers have taken over the desktop.
In the days before PCs, desktops were higher because handwriting is generally more comfortable at a level that's a few inches higher than is ideal for typing.
But by now, everything should have shifted to the lower plane because PCs have all but eliminated handwriting at most desks. Sure, you might scribble a quick note or two, but the vast majority of the time you're typing and clicking.
Too many designers, however, still cling to the old desktop height. To accommodate the keyboard, they add a slide-away tray that hangs at a lower level appropriate for typing. This gets the keyboard off the desktop and leaves more room there, but for what? Paper?
What's worse is that many desks are built without any consideration for the kind of computers and accessories that are popular today.
Sure, you'll probably get some kind of printer stand, but is there a convenient place to keep your paper, spare ink cartridges or card stock? Where are you supposed to keep the scanner? On your desktop? And what about speakers? Most desks don't offer a decent place to put them either.
I can already hear you saying: "Yeah, OK, but so what? It's only a desk."
But you should care, especially if you spend any significant amount of time working on your PC.
A well-designed desk helps protect you from typing injuries, neck and eyestrain and other ailments that can come from long stretches in front of the computer.
Just as important, a good desk helps you get the most from your PC. Good speaker placement, for example, means you'll be better able to hear the music that you spent so much time downloading.
So take a look at your current computer desk and ask yourself if you could do better. Then go shopping for something that suits your equipment and your needs.
Just remember that by the time you finally find something that suits your needs, it may be time to upgrade to a new computer.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
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