I recently received an infographic from WeAreTop10.com showing how work desks have evolved over the past 40 years. The graphic (reproduced in full here) also predicted how desks might evolve over in the near future. (The original concept came from this very cool video by Best Reviews.)
As you'd expect, the rise of the digital app has had the biggest impact on office desks, although there have been some notable physical changes too, including Lifehacker's perennial favorite: standing desks.
It occurred to me that the video and infographic doesn't really go far enough in either direction (past and future). By adding more background and projecting current trends into the future, we can see what our workplace will look like in the next century.
Work Desk 1.0 (5,000 BC to 1920 AD)
The original work desk was fairly simple: a slab of wood, an ink-well, some good quills and plenty of parchment. Information was difficult to obtain and disseminate.
Work Desk 2.0 (1920-1980)
The invention of the typewriter and telephone, and later the xerox machine, made it much easier to both obtain and disseminate information.
Work Desk 3.0 (circa 1984)
(This is where the WeAreTop10.com infographic begins.) The Macintosh was state-of-the-art for computing, although some preferred the limited mobility of the luggable Compaq. The primary applications were word processing, desktop publishing and spreadsheets.
While some companies had internal email, communicating with other companies required a fax machine. Voice-mail was a must-have for your corporate PBX.
Work Desk 4.0 (circa 1995)
The Internet changed everything. Email became universal (remember AOL's cheery "You've Got Mail!"), gradually replacing the fax machine. Office applications became more sophisticated and complex.
What really changed things, however, was having a near-infinite amount of information at your fingertips, and the ability to communicate with groups of people on forums (at first) and then the first social networks. (Friendster, anyone?)
Work Desk 5.0 (today)
Here's where we are today. Much of the desktop clutter is cleared away. Notebooks, tablets and phones have largely replaced the clunky old desktop machines. You've got thousands of apps that do thousands of things.
Work Desk 6.0 (circa 2025)
According to numerous experts and futurists, the work desk of the future will become ergonomic. We'll be able to choose from a variety of positions while working and even exercise while we work.
Such work desks will be connected to wearables that monitor your heart rate while providing alternative ways of entering and selecting data. With advances in AI, voice commands and recognition will replace keyboards.
For sustainability and to limit damage to the environment, your work desk will be powered by batteries that store the kinetic energy of your motion while you exercise. This will enable you to become healthier while helping to save the world!
Work Desk 7.0 (circa 2100 forward)
Just remember to take the BLUE pill.