The Evolution of Your Office Desk
Good Old Times
Take a look at your desk. Laptop, coffee mug, a glass of water, one notebook, smartphone and a pair of sunglasses. It looks clean and tidy. However, not so long ago, it wasn’t so. Back in the day, our desks were filled with different tools that we needed just to get our work done. From fax machines and phone books to corded phones and typewriters — all of these were a must-have for every blue collar professional who simply couldn’t imagine a day without them. The work stayed the same but the desk has evolved. How, you ask? Well, let’s elaborate.
Before tools and apps, people used old fashioned work gadgets. Among must-have items, one important piece of equipment was the typewriter. Old, robust, big and heavy, it was not good looking but it did the job just fine.
Nowadays, the only place where you can find typewriters is on eBay, provided they’re on sale. If you take a closer look, you would quickly realize that we’ve gone from typewriters to PDFs and cloud text editors in just two decades.
Things like cord phones, calculators, Rolodexes are just some of the objects that have disappeared from our desks. Actually, your entire desk has shrunk into your computer and smartphone.
How It All Started
In the ‘80s Mackintosh released the first computer with a pointing device, appropriately named mouse. This was revolutionary in many ways but especially in terms of just how many industries the first Mac served. It was a time of tough competition and everyone wanted a piece of the “computer” cake. And the cake was big and sweet.
With this in mind, in 1985, Microsoft released their first basic word processor and started exploring the uncharted waters of paperless work. MS Office Word and Excel arrived a bit later and shortly became the industry leading products as they immediately replaced calculators and typewriters. Microsoft evolved into the biggest giant of this industry, with 110 million devices running on Windows 10.
Presentations and public speaking were next. One of the main turning points in the evolution of slides was when the analogue slides got officially replaced by “Presenter”, a software originally designed for Macintosh by a company called Forethought. Microsoft purchased the company and claimed the software which is now called PowerPoint and is present on virtually every computer.
What changed? Presentations got more interesting, meetings got faster and the whole humanity was shifting towards and embracing visual content. We started appreciating creative presentations more which is why PowerPoint remained the most used presentation program with 500 million users worldwide today.
With presentations covered, we now needed a universal format for sharing documents. MS Word was good but it was not cross platform and it had some disadvantages. Document digitization started when the PDF strolled into our lives in 1993 — and it’s been there ever since. PDFs slowly began to replace fax machines and paper, but the paperless change didn’t happen instantly. However, in several years people adapted and switched to PDF, leaving their workflow in the past. Nowadays, people of all professions use PDF as their go to file format for sharing, storing and viewing important documents. It is secure and it can be accessed from any platform, meaning that the number of PDF documents circling the Web come as no surprise.
The Big Leap
Some of the biggest technological advances happened in the decade between 2000 and 2010. We lost some good items from our desks but, in return, we received a ton of useful things that now make our everyday work easier.
In 2005, Facebook arrived. Not the first social media, but at that time, certainly the most promising one. According to the six degrees of separation theory, it only takes you 6 people to find just about anyone in the world and so Facebook became an integral part of our daily life by following the natural human connection process. More importantly, there was no further need to carry contact books with you all the time. All of your emails, addresses and contact details are in one place. Currently, Facebook has over 1.5 billion user across the world and 700 million users on Messenger.
Communication among business partners changed as well, as it became easier and faster with new inventions. Introducing Skype.
Even though we all loved long office calls with corded phones, we quickly got hooked on Skype’s multi-purpose capabilities. It was launched in 2006 and quickly became the first service to offer voice to voice internet communication. It literally strangled old phone with its own cord.
On the lighter note, sticky notes remained popular, but the launch of Twitter in 2006 made instant messaging easier and, in some cases, even eliminated the need for sticky notes. The birth of cloud computing and the launch of Dropbox in 2008 really transformed how we collaborate with our co-workers in the cloud. Also, it affected those big storage boxes in your office and at your desk and made them obsolete.
Future of Our Desks
What did we learn from the past that we can apply in the future?
Technology evolves rapidly. And it will continue to do so. Tendencies toward online, cross-platform applications are present now more than ever. It is not just important to be online, you need to be present online and everywhere — 24 hours, 7 days a week.
In the future, it is safe to say that we will further simplify our work through streamlining certain tasks. People are already beginning to experiment with different working styles and some of them are on a good path. Remote working is slowly becoming even more popular. People can create companies online and build huge businesses without actually ever meeting their co-workers in person. Another trend that’s been popping out is that the co-working spaces are becoming extremely popular. By paying a small monthly fee, people can share ideas, meet up and talk with other folks from different fields of work.
The only thing that remained exactly the same as it was 35 years ago is your good old, wooden office desk. However, even there we have some new and interesting improvement ideas, as more and more designers are actually starting to redefine workplace comfort. They are playing with interactive desks (a touchscreen desk for example), using a Pilates ball for sitting, lazy bags and even stand up desks. But just how exactly will everything look, we’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, we have to fulfill our mission and continue the trend the last generation of tech inventors has paved. We need to put our differences aside and work towards the common goal of improving mankind.
Because, if we don’t invent to improve ourselves, who will?
About the Author:
Veronica Johnson is a community manager for Investintech.com, the developer of leading PDF technology solutions. She often blogs about technological advances, productivity tips and emerging software trends.