Tarin Gamberini

A software engineer and a passionate java programmer

The Healthy Videotypist

Since 1872 it was clear that writing by mechanical means would have become obsolete the laborious and unsatisfactory performance of the pen.

At that time I guess it wasn’t clear how much human body could be suitable for hours and hours of work using a video and a typewriter. Even worst human body has some “design” imperfection because it hasn’t be designed at all: it has evolved. For example the ability to rotate our wrist is achieved by the interchangeability of the two arm bones. Another relevant example is back pain which is experienced by many people as they age. This happens because evolving from quadrupedal to bipedal the vertebrate column inclined vertically, entangling the nerve connections among organs, while the lower back had to support the whole weight of the shoulders.

Medicine And Laws

To a certain extent almost everybody has became a videotypist since desktop computers “invaded” offices and “colonized” desks of an unpredictable amount of workers. This is one of the reasons because occupational diseases such as repetitive stress injury (RSI), carpal tunnel syndrome, computer vision syndrome were first identified in occupational medicine and then managed in the context of the occupational safety and health (OSH).

In Italy some important OSH statements about videotypist are defined in the Art. 176 of the executive order 81/2008 (formally «Decreto legislativo 81/2008, Testo Unico sulla Sicurezza, Art. 176»). INAIL, the Italian National Insurance Institute for Occupational Accidents and Diseases, has published (2010) the guide «Videoterminal Working - Risks and Prevention» where lots of topics are covered, from mental fatigue to work desks, from eyes strain to muscle skeletal stretching:

Have you ever seen a colleague of your doing these exercises? :-)

Software For The Healthy Videotypist

At work I’ve been using for about a year and half two software that help alleviating eyes strain and reminds me to pause regularly doing simple exercises.


Workrave is a program that assists in the recovery and prevention of repetitive strain injury. The program frequently alerts you to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit.

The program is Free Software because it is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 3 and runs both on GNU/Linux and on Microsoft Windows.

Workrave works by monitoring and timing your use of the computer, prompting to you take breaks at set intervals. There are three types of breaks:

  • micro-break - a short thirty second stop-using-your-computer type break. By default it occurs every three minutes but I’ve found it too annoying, therefore I’ve changed to 15 minutes.
  • rest break - a 15 minuets break I’ve set occurring about at 11:00 and at 16:00. This break is introduced by an exercise (there are various kind of exercises) described by some text and shown by an avatar. I usually take this break to walk downstairs at the coffee vending machine.
  • daily limit - it occurs by default every 4 hours, it seems low but remember that Workrave measures your effective use of the keyboard or mouse and not the time you are phoning or talking with colleagues.

It took long time before I became used to these breaks because it gets very tempting to ignore/postpone them. Fortunately I’ve slowly changed habits.


Redshift adjusts the color temperature of your screen according to your surroundings. This may help your eyes hurt less if you are working in front of the screen at night.

The program is Free Software because it is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 3 and runs on GNU/Linux. On Redshift site similar software are suggested for Android (not open source), Windows, Mac and iPhone/iPad.

Redshift adjusts the color temperature according to the position of the sun compared to your GPS coordinates. For example because I work in Bologna (44.5075, 11.351389) I run:

redshift -l 44.5075:11.351389 -v

A different color temperature is set during night and daytime. During twilight and early morning, the color temperature transitions smoothly from night to daytime temperature to allow your eyes to slowly adapt. At night the color temperature should be set to match the lamps in your room. Here you can see how appears a normal temperature compared to a 3500K one:

Share Your Experience

Let me know if you use other strategies or software to keep you a healthy videotypist.

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