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Air-Typing 2 Air-Typing 3 Air-Typing 4

Air Typing

Accommodating Your Body with Wood

by Tom Riley

Only recently have we really got into designing our tools, furniture, and houses to suit the real needs of the human body. Computer furniture is a particularly important case because bad design can actually may you sick and destroy your career.

Such injuries are completely unnecessary. With modern woodworking tools and materials, we can make computer furniture any shape that is needed to suit our bodies. This article is about how to let our bodies tell us what our bodies need. It is about typing on air.

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  1. Air-Typing

    You have played air guitar before. You know, pretending to play an instrument while recorded music plays in the background. Sure you have. Now you can learn air-typing.

    These simple experiments will determine the exact shape of a computer desk that is best for you. They help you find your truly comfortable body positions for typing and viewing the screen.

    This exercise is not an alternative to getting professional help if you are in pain. A health care professional with experience in this field can find your specific problems in minutes. Their advice could save you the time and expense of building the wrong computer desk.

    Air-Typing 1
  2. The Secret of Good Air-Typing

    Start at a time when you are well rested. You need a willing helper to assist in taking a few measurements while you hold body positions. The helper also can read these instructions to you while your eyes are closed. You will need a good chair, a tape measure, some masking tape, and a light weight yard stick (or meter stick).

    Start with the chair. It should be the chair in which you do most of your typing. If it is uncomfortable, buy a new one. If it is broken, fix it. If is out of adjustment, adjust it. If it squeaks, oil it. If the casters do not roll, free them up or replace them. Go no father until you are happy with your chair. Do not compromise on your chair. Bad chairs are half the problem.

    Place your good chair in the middle of the room away from the desk and sit in it. Use good posture but not ram-rod posture. Try to sit as you sit to type but do not slouch.

    Adjust the height of the chair so you can place you feet lightly on the ground. Your calves should be sloping down slightly toward the front. The weight of your legs should be divided between your feet and the front edge of the chair. If you normally use a foot rest, then place it in position and adjust the chair height.

    Close your eyes and rest. Forget all your bad typing habits. Forget the body positions you have used all your life. They were designed for a typewriter built in 1893 and have nothing to do with our ultra-modern air typewriter.

    Wiggle your fingers and move your arms around slightly. Try to find the most comfortable location for your arms and hands as you pretend to type. Remember the air typewriter is completely elastic and will automatically adjust to any position that is comfortable to you.

    All body movement is done with pairs of muscles. Each muscles in a pair make the movement opposite to the other. The most comfortable position for any body part is with each pair of muscles nicely balanced. This is called the 'neutral' position and is the least stressful position.

    Find and then hold your must comfortable position.

    Open your eyes. Look at and feel the body position of your elbows. They are probably at your side and forming almost right angles.

    Look at and feel the position of your wrists. They are probably straight. They are certainly not bent up or cocked outward.

    Look at and feel the position of your forearms. They probably angle in from your sides slightly.

    Look at and feel the position of your fingers. They are probably sloping down, not up.

    Have your helper lay the yard stick across the top of your wrists and measure the distance to the floor. All measurements should be made to the nearest half inch.

    Remember this body position. Remember it in descriptive words and remember it physically as a position of your body.

    You may want to repeat this test three or four times to get a range of satisfactory numbers. When you are comfortable with the results you have completed first test.

    Air-Typing 2
  3. Here's Looking At You, Kid

    The second test is to determine your best distance from your eyes to the monitor screen. Sit in front of the monitor and run your most commonly used program. Get the screen to display example text in the font you spend the most time reading. Be sure you are wearing the corrective lenses you use for computer work.

    Tape the one inch end of the yard stick to the left edge of the monitor screen at a middle height. Tape the stick to the monitor's plastic frame if you are concerned about leaving tape residue on the glass.

    Lean the free end of the yard stick on your left shoulder. Move your body forward and backward until you feel you are at you best visual distance from the screen.

    Reach up and pinch the yard stick just by your cheek. Write down the reading in front of you thumb. Repeat the test several times and try to establish your acceptable range, forward and back. For most people this distance falls in the range of 18 to 30 inches.

    You now have the most critical dimension in computer desk design, the best eye to screen distance.

    Air-Typing 3
  4. With a Tip of the Head to ...

    For the third test, lean the yard stick against the monitor with the 1 inch mark down, so that the straight edge crosses the center of the screen. Tape the yard stick in place. Be sure that the bottom end of the yard stick is at the height of the bottom of the monitor, even if the monitor is sitting on something.

    Move your chair forward until your eyes are at your most comfortable distance from the screen. We established this distance in the last test.

    Sit in the chair again and relax. Close your eyes and return to the body position you remember from the first test. Check your posture. If the desk is in the way of your hands, simply lay them in your lap.

    With your eyes closed, move your head around by bending your neck slowly both forward and back, and side to side. Stop when you find the most comfortable position for your neck.

    Open your eyes and note the yard stick measurement in the center of your vision. Also measure the distance from your eye to this point, the distance from your eye to the floor, and the height of the monitor stand bottom. You will need an assistant to make these measurements.

    Try repeating the test several times to get a range of good readings.

    Air-Typing 4
  5. Low and Inside

    Some people's most comfortable center of vision requires the monitor to be buried in the desk. This is okay, you are free to design the desk any way you need. Having the monitor low is the best position for many people with neck problems or tri-focal glasses. If you did not look down near the bottom of the yard stick in the last test, you can skip the rest of this section.

    We will repeat the last test but pushed way from the desk. Tape the yard stick to the front of the desk with the one inch mark down on the floor. Place the chair so that your knees are about two inches away from the yard stick.

    Sit down, check your posture, and relax. Close your eyes and move your neck around slowly. Find the most comfortable position for your neck and open them again.

    Note the number on the yard stick and measure the distance from your eye to that number. Also measure the height of your eye from the floor.

    Repeat this test a time or two till you are easy with the result.

  6. Test for Stand-Up Desk height using a cardboard box
  7. Stand-Up Desks

    Stand-Up Desks require a few special considerations in air typing. You can do the air typing exercises to set the keyboard and monitor heights while standing in front of a normal desk or table and make the measurements to the table instead of the floor. You can also use cardboard boxes, shown above, and large coffee table books to build up a test keyboard surface and try several heights with your real keyboard or laptop. Typical heights range from 40 to 46 inches to the floor.

    Stand-up desks are often used with a tall stool, typically 29 inches, and may have a foot rest to increase the available variety of body positions. After you have a keyboard height you like standing, redo the whole exercise sitting on the stool. Determine if one height can suit you well for both positions.

    A small cardboard box weighted with books can be used as a trial footrest. Again try it both standing and sitting on the stool. You need to know two numbers: the height of the foot rest (typically 6 to 12 inches) and the distance in from the front of the keyboard shelf (typically 4 to 10 inches).

  8. Book Reference

    Here is a good book that can help you get rid of bad typing practices and develop good keep-fit exercises:

  9. Congratulations

    Congratulations, you are now a certified air-typist. You also have all the measurements we need to design a computer desk to suit your body and not one that forces your body to contort to it.

    Feel free to drop us an e-mail for farther discussion.

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