Anyone who uses a computer regularly should know how important it is to pay attention to body and wrist position in order to avoid excessive strain. New York native Joanna Nayer Hardin, known alternatively as “The Computer Lady” or Harlem’s “Computer Diva,” learned how to type in 1966 and was typing regularly on the job by the 1970s.
In 1977, she was Director of Sales Operations for a radio station where she used a computer every day to book commercials. By the 1980s, she had become intimately familiar with the pain of osteoarthritis, twice losing feeling in her right arm and even unable to walk at one point. The condition may result from extensive wear and tear on joints, with no proper back support and poor positioning while toiling at one’s workstation.
Hardin was accustomed to back, neck, and limb pain. But she got to a point where she couldn’t take it anymore. With the help of a friend named Bernie Hirschenson, she began working on a solution to her problem.
Hardin watched her grandmother come home from a hard day’s work of cleaning houses and styling hair, when she would rest her weary arms on elevated pillows for relief. Hardin thought that this might serve as a model for a device that could be used to support hands, arms, and wrists while sitting at the computer. The solution to repetitive stress, Hardin reasoned, was repetitive, comfortable, non-restrictive support. She designed a prototype for what would come to be called CompUrest, a computer accessory designed to support the user’s arms, elbows, and shoulders, as well as fingers, hands, and wrists. The unit facilitates lowering the keyboard, eliminating the tendency to bend wrists. It also has an indented armrest that extends to support elbows and facilitates better posture.
When Hardin tested the device herself, her symptoms disappeared within a month. She and Hirschenson filed for a patent on July 19, 1991. They were issued U.S. Patent No. 5,188,321 for the CompuRest keyboard stand, which is a product of Hardin’s Computer Underground Railroad Enterprises (CURE) established in 1994. The product is sold on the Internet.