Tim Robertson has been writing this column but when I asked him if I could also participate, he of course, readily agreed. This month’s Back 2 Basics will be a reprint of one of my columns from the November 1995 issue of My Mac. The topics covered then are still important enough to be discussed now, particularly with the holidays quickly approaching and computer purchases being considered.
System SetupThe system setup that I want to discuss deals with where to put your Mac, how to arrange it physically and how to setup and arrange yourself. You’ve gone out and done your homework on which computer to get and you’ve gotten yourself a Mac. Outstanding!
Now, where are you going to put it or where have you put it? In the corner of the family room, your bedroom or wherever you have room? Putting it on your desk, a computer table or the card table? Wherever you want to put it or have done so, take a look at the area.
What kind of lighting is available? Fluorescent, natural or incandescent bulb? If you have fluorescent lighting, is it too bright? Consider removing a bulb or two to reduce the light over the setup. If you’re going to place your system by a window, you don’t want the light coming in from behind the monitor or from behind you. Angle the setup off to the side if you can. If you can’t change the lighting, consider making yourself a hood from cardboard and place it over the top and sides of the monitor to cut down on glare. Hell, if you’re too lazy, throw your favorite baseball cap on, adjust the brim’s angle and go for it.
Seating. Find yourself a good chair, preferably one that you can adjust. Don’t adjust yourself to the chair. The chair should provide support for your spine, including the lower back. It should fit you, don’t force yourself to fit it. If the chair has arm rests, make sure that it doesn’t force your shoulders up. If you have an adjustable office chair, set it up to allow you support yet free movement. If you don’t, consider checking yard sales, office discount stores or auctions, wherever you can find a bargain that you can afford.
Work Area. The surface area that you’re setting your system up in should allow enough room for the CPU, monitor, keyboard, mouse/trackball and whatever other peripherals you need. If you’re going to have a phone next to your equipment, place it on the opposite side from you’re writing hand. This way you can still talk and write if you have to. Everything that you’re going to use should be within your immediate reach; don’t stretch or strain for items. The keyboard should be positioned so that your forearms and wrists are not elevated, nor should you be typing at an awkward angle. Consider using a wrist rest to support your wrists as you type. You may wind up typing with the keyboard on your lap if it’s the only way for you to do so comfortably. If you’re going to be typing from copy or notes, try placing them directly in front of you, at eye level. If you can’t, place them to the side of the monitor but not so that you have to strain to read and type. Every few minutes look away from your notes, focus on another area in the room, so as to give your eyes a break. The monitor should be positioned so that the central point of your focus is just below eye level: in other words, you should be looking slightly down at the screen.
When you are working or playing on your Mac, and you begin to tire or feel stiff or sore, it’s time to take a break. Move your arms, legs, neck and head; stretch a bit, get up and walk around for a few minutes. Get something to eat or drink, or just relax. Give your body a chance to loosen up. If what you are doing is painful, stop and take a break. Consider getting it checked out by a physician if the pain persists.
The whole purpose of this review of your system setup is for one reason. Your activity at the computer should be safe, comfortable and designed to permit you to function at your best without having to worry about future injuries. Enough computer users have been subjected to repetitive stress injuries, vision and back problems resulting from poor posture, system placement and work conditions. Your time spent in front of the Mac should be enjoyable and not come back to haunt you.