Office furniture plays a key role in the administration of office duties. Just imagine working without your comfortable chair and computer desk. How odd and tiresome that would be. Have you ever looked at the furniture in your workplace and wondered where they came from or who invented them? You’ll be surprised how far we’ve come with office furniture. Here is a brief history of the office desk chair and file cabinet.
The earliest known desk-like structure for writing or reading was from medieval times. These were simple crude four-legged structures. The desk gained popularity in the pre-printing press ages when books were hand-copied. They were huge, heavy, and fitted with metal slots for holding items such as writing implements, for example, an ink well. The desk as we know it was made in the 17th and 18th centuries. The modern design is a refined version of the 18th-century drafting and drawing tables.
Office desks in the 60s were large metal desks featuring a simple design. They were meant to hold manual typewriters and had large pulling drawers for filing paperwork.
Office desks in the 70s were still large to hold manual typewriters and the newly incorporated phones. They retained file drawers in order to hold paperwork. The only difference is that they were lighter and made of wood instead of metal desks used previously.
The 80s brought with them the invention of office computers. Office computers had keyboards for typing, and so the manual typewriter disappeared. Typewriter tables were no longer relevant and were replaced with the sleek, simple computer tables that ushered in the technological revolution era. Huge processors and monitors were placed on these tables. File drawers that featured in previous desks were eliminated as computers needed no paperwork. Office information was stored electronically in floppy discs.
Office desks in the 90s were not much different from those in the 80s, only that they had to make room for huge cathode-ray tube monitors and the newly invented mobile phone on top and huge word processors below.
In the 2000s, desks were modeled to fit in the work stations and work pods. Focus started shifting from productivity to comfort. Some came fitted with holes for electric and ethernet wiring, while some came already wired.
Since 2010 the sky is the only limit when it comes to the office desk. This decade has brought faster internet connection and lighter portable laptop computers. The work station is evolving, and workers need to connect to a local area network and work remotely from home, which is ushering in the work desk for home offices.
History records the first examples of chairs made to work on a table in Egypt in 1900 BC. These were not chairs, but stools meant to support the artisan’s forward-leaning posture while they worked.
The office chair design as we know it appeared in the early 19th century. It was created by Charles Darwin, famed for the Evolution Theory. Darwin would spend a lot of hours researching in his laboratory. He therefore attached legs and wheels to an armchair for easier maneuverability and movement between specimens.
With the spread of rail transport in the mid-1800s came rapid business growth expansion, which called for more clerical workers. These workers would spend lots of hours sitting on uncomfortable chairs. Thus, Thomas Warren invented the Centripetal Spring Armchair in 1849. It featured a swivel mechanism for easy reach, velvet upholstery, cast iron legs, and wheels.
The 20th century begun with the Larking Building chair’s invention for typists made by Frank Lloyd Wright. It later came to be referred to as the suicide chair since it could topple over, smashing the employees’ heads on the floor.
The 70s are accredited with the creation of the modern ergonomic chair as we know it today. Labeled the Ergon Chair, it was supposed to improve the comfort and support the user’s spinal column. Ergon chair was foam-filled and featured gas-lift levers for tilt and height adjustment and five star-shaped legs with easy glide castors.
Aeron Chair was launched in 1994 by Herman Miller. It was similar to the Ergon Chair, only that it featured a wire mesh back for temperature regulation. Since then, the ergonomic chair has been evolving to provide more comfort, posture support, and height adjustment to keep you comfortable in your workplace.
Filing cabinets were invented here in the U.S. in the mid 19th century. Edwin. G. Seibels came up with the idea of a lateral file system. Before this, document filing and retrieval was a tiresome affair. Documents were gathered, bound together, and placed on shelves or in boxes if they were not urgently required. Loose paperwork was stored in spindle files. These were sharp sticks with bases where employees would be stick papers on, similar to what small businesses use to save receipts today. Companies also had folded papers put in envelopes and placed in pigeon-hole drawers.
Sibel worked on his idea that papers could be kept in large envelopes and arranged vertically in a filing cabinet drawer separated with guide cards. American inventor Henry Brown came up with an improved, metal, fireproof, and accident-proof receptacle in 1886.
Modern cabinets are designed after those in the 1950s but have improved lighting and electronically movable parts. The traditional filing system is, however, slowly being phased out by electronic and cloud storage technologies.