Ergonomics: The Story Behind Things Like Data Center Consoles

Have you ever wondered what ergonomics is?

Ergonomics is the process of designing systems to better the interaction between humans and the tools they use. The philosophy is often brought into the workplace in order to improve upon employee morale and productivity. This can also be brought into the home to provide safe conditions and other improvements. Either use can have added medical benefits by reducing the chances of disabilities such as repetitive strain injuries or skeletal disorders. Ergonomics, taken to the next step, provides solutions to limitations people have, including the assistance to people with disabilities.

Some have said that the principles of ergonomics can be traced back to fifth century BC Greece. Tools better fit to the human hand, being refined over time, provide the foundation of ergonomics in these early times. Egyptian surgeons have been demonstrated to have arranged their tools in a manner that would streamline surgical use and increase. Frederick Winslow Taylor was the first to introduce ergonomic principles as a discipline to be observed to provide the optimum method of carrying out a task. One example of his efforts came from reducing the size and weight of coal shovels which had the effect of tripling the amount of coal that was shoveled.

Of course, ergonomics would become very useful as an idea regarding the waging of war. One particular area of benefit from ergonomic study was the field of aviation. This was especially true in designing controls that presented an intuitive means of operation and assisted the pilot to overcome the effects of altitude. By the1930s, Edwin Link had invented the first functional flight simulator based on ergonomic and aeromedical research. When World War II arrived, the military was able to use things that had been learned from ergonomics to design new equipment that took full advantage of human capabilities, both physically and cognitively.

The interest in ergonomics, or "human factors," spread from the military into many other fields. Automobiles and civilian aircraft, for example, both began ergonomic research to improve the function of their machines by operators.

Perhaps the next largest impact on industry came with the dawn of the Information Age and the rise of the computer. The development of the personal computer (PC) was heavily influenced by the goal of compatible Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The personal computer spawned a series of devices and furniture, most designed with ergonomic principles. The mouse, molded to fit the human hand, and command console furniture, which complements the human body, are some of the many examples. Control room consoles and data center consoles are examples of these designs at work in business and government.

Full-time specialists in ergonomics, sometimes called user trial engineers, became the obvious result of its popularity in the workplace. Safety is another concern of these specialists, working to implement new rules or features which enable a safer work environment. This includes considering things that exists within the environment such as climate, light and temperature. Today, these specialists can be found employed in most fields, some of which include aviation, computer technologies, highway safety, psychology and engineering.