Friday, July 07, 2006

Outdoor furniture for Software Developers...

Doesn't exist. Yet. I'm not joking - there really isn't anything out there.

I ran at least 20 searches on Google looking for outdoor furniture designed specifically for software developers to achieve top performance while working outdoors. Including, but not limited to, "lawn chairs", "outdoor furniture for software developers", "outdoor furniture", "how to get software developers outside into the sunshine", "getting software developers into the sunshine", etc.

Edit: Stepping away from the computer for a few hours can do wonders. I found something close to what I want, but not quite. The keywords were a lot simpler than what I had been trying "outdoor chair laptop". Only that combination of keywords will bring up this chair:

http://www.hammacher.com/publish/72852.asp?promo=xsells

It is close, but I've sat in those funky green sports chairs before and they aren't very comfortable (IMO). The so-called laptop support that you see in the picture is made of the same flexible material as the rest of the chair and it sits at an angle. There is also lack of space for an external mouse. Despite that, this is probably the best single-unit solution to date. The only single-unit solution.

The reason I started hunting for a chair is because I know I spend too much time indoors. I'm not ignorant of that fact. I'm also aware that everyone needs about 15 minutes of sunshine every day to absorb Vitamin D so that Vitamin A can be broken down so that we won't go blind. What is really hilarious is that there are plenty of articles out there stating that "not enough Americans get out into the sun" but don't bother telling us how to get outdoors while still accomplishing our jobs. What got me to actually search for this is someone telling me how "pale like a ghost" I look like. Most 'Americans' are "white". I'm "whiter than white". Essentially, I'm not normal, but everyone already knows that. I just decided that it was time to do something about it. Lo and behold, there isn't anything I can do because the equipment necessary to do my job outdoors simply does not exist.

There is an incredible need for outdoor chairs for software developers that is not being filled. So let me draw a mental image of the perfect outdoor chair for the software developer:

1) It has to be comfortable. Most outdoor chairs don't allow for comfortable sitting for doing work. They are great for relaxing, but that's not the purpose of this chair. This one is for doing office work outdoors. Obviously the fake leather executive chair which I find relatively comfortable indoors would wear out quickly outdoors, but that is the sort of "comfort" I'm talking about.

2) It has to have a mechanism (preferably a swivel of sorts) to support up to 15 pounds of laptop computer. This mechanism should also be comfortable (i.e. no sharp metallic edges). The unit should have sufficient weight to not topple when no one is sitting in the chair (e.g. the owner gets up to go to the bathroom). If a swivel mechanism is used, there should be multiple "locking" positions. Assume the chair will be put on relatively level ground.

Edit: I found a really cool swivel mechanism here:

http://www.ergostoreonline.com/viewmaster-laptop-stand.html

Obviously, it would have to be a different color. And be cheaper. Otherwise, it is very cool.

3) There should be two types of chairs: Right-handed and left-handed. For right-handers such as myself, the laptop should swivel from the left and there should be a comfortable elbow rest on the left-hand side. The right-hand side should have a slightly shorter armrest (length-wise, it should have the same height) and a place to put a mousepad and mouse slightly below where my wrist would drop down. Essentially, there would be a blocky rectangle'ish thing attached to the armrest on the right. The setup would be reversed for left-handers.

4) The back of the chair should be somewhat reclinable for taking a nap. There should be an "egg timer addon" kit that keeps the person from being sunburned (nap or otherwise). If people are going to take naps on this chair, it would be great to have a full, back-support similar to what you find in indoor executive office chairs.

5) Have an "addon" kit for getting a surge-protected electrical outlet to the vicinity of the chair. Laptops require power and it is pointless to have a chair to sit in outdoors if there is no power source for the laptop. I would suggest an electrical outlet attached to the chair itself, but that's probably illegal. Not to mention dangerous (especially if the chair is made of metal).

6) Having the chair be able to collapse would be a nice feature but not required. Most people and companies will not move the chair around much because of the need for a power source. Essentially, this is going to be a stationary outdoor object that people sit on to do work on.

7) A cup holder should reside aligned with the seat (left-hand side for the right-handed chair). Sitting outdoors and doing office work is going to require more frequent fluid replenishment, but standard cup holders in most outdoor chairs put the cup in the way of creating a disaster (fluids and computer equipment doesn't mix). This allows the drink to be handy but not cause a disaster.

By the way, I'm not interested in a "chair with a table" combinations I know someone will come up with and try to persuade me is "what I need". I want the chair I just described and nothing else will be satisfactory. End of discussion.

Essentially, what I've described is going to create some really ugly prototypes. It will be big, bulky, rectangular, and ugly looking but will be super-awesome comfortable. If anyone in the computer chair or lawn chair industry takes this idea to production, please seriously consider me as the major "beta tester" of the product because chair manufacturers seem to never have anyone in mind, especially the customer.

Now I'm off to find an electrical socket to attach to my chair.

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