Happy 30th Birthday, IBM PC

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the IBM PC. It wasn’t the first personal computer – Xerox, Apple, Commodore, and many others had introduced various versions of personal computers years earlier. But its relative affordability, its ability to run many different programs, and its incorporation of third-party components made it the first PC to be widely adopted.

Obviously, this gadget has had a huge impact on office life.

On the plus side, computers have:

  • enhanced personal and business productivity
  • freed us from mundane and repetitive tasks like filling out paper spreadsheets and re-typing written documents
  • made data entry, data manipulation, and data analysis much easier
  • automated routine business processes
  • enhanced business decision making
  • improved communication
  • permitted telecommuting and other work innovations
  • with the introduction of the internet, brought the wisdom of the entire world to our office and home

On the other hand, the widespread use of computers has lead to:

  • epidemic levels of aches and pains:
    • carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
    • repetitive strain injuries (RSIs)
    • thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)
    • back pain and injuries
    • shoulder pain and injuries
    • neck pain and injuries
    • hip pain and injuries
    • temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction
    • eye strain
    • headaches
    • migraines
    • etc. etc. etc.
  • ever-increasing expectations of increased productivity
  • anti-productivity due to information overload and ensuing attention deficit disorder
  • high levels of stress and anxiety
  • risk of disease and premature death due to sedentary work-style

On balance, I think most people would agree that personal computers offer a net gain to society, “increasing social capital by enhancing personal productivity,” as Apple put it in their famous ad when the IBM PC came out: Welcome, IBM. Seriously. But it behooves us all to bear in mind – and to proactively address – the hazards to our personal health and fitness that computers have created.

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