Escape from Carpal Tunnel

On a Wristwing and a prayer

Content Tools

After years of freelance drafting work, inventor Robert Jaeger began suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. But when he looked around at all the ergonomic, split-keyboard, wrist-padded solutions, he figured there had to be a better way.

Enter Wristwings, Jaeger’s ingenious, if a little goofy, creation. Buoyant enough to keep wrists dangling over the keyboard, as experts recommend, they consist of twin handkerchief loops fastened to lengths of thin rope tied to a spring hooked to pegs installed in the ceiling. Adjusting the rope changes the tension. When they’re not in use, Wristwings are tethered to hooks that are suction-cupped on the sides of the computer.

“They’re a little awkward, but so what?” Jaeger says, pointing out that seat belts, too, met with derision at first. Now seat belts are standard. Wristwings, on the other hand, haven’t been marketed. Why not? A bit embarrassed, Jaeger discovered he wasn’t first: He holds up an illustration for U.S. patent number 360,529, depicting a handle-bar-mustached man pecking at a strange contraption, his forearms looped from a swing set-like device on the desk. Its date: 1887. Because patents last only 20 years, Jaeger could do whatever he wants with his re-invention, but so could anyone else—anyone with enough pesos to get the device made cheaper in Mexico.

In a perfect world, Robert Jaeger’s invention would be snatched up by a computer-accessory company and we’d all be chained to the ceiling above our desks (much to the delight of our bosses). Instead, Jaeger recommends that you make your own Wristwings. His cost about $8.

From Weekly Planet (July 15, 1999). Subscriptions: $24/yr. (52 issues) from 1310 E. 9th Av., Tampa, FL 33605.