The trials and tribulations of office chairs

From XKCD (click the image to see a larger version at the comic strip’s Web site):

This brought back many horrible memories!  I’ve run into so many office chairs that are awkward and difficult to adjust, and none of their controls seem to work in the same way from chair to chair.  Push this thingumajig in one chair and it raises it;  in another, it lowers it.  Pull that doohickey in this chair, it reclines;  in that chair, it locks solid.

Why can’t manufacturers adopt a relatively sane set of operations for desk chairs, and standardize on them?



  1. B-but what if they settle on the XKCD design, that gets nourishment and growth by eating sitters?

  2. I suspect that patents and copyrights have a lot to do with it.
    As I recall Colt had to wait several years before releasing their first cartridge revolver as prior to 1873 Smith and Wesson owned the patent on the bored through cylinder.

  3. Correction and addition.
    The patent for a bored through revolver cylinder was actually granted to one Rollin White who licensed that feature to Smith and Wesson. Patent granted in 1858, so apparently such exclusive rights expired in fifteen years in those days, though history reports that White spend a lot of time in court attempting to get extensions on his patent protection.

  4. It took federal legislation to standardize the shift patterns on automatic transmissions (prohibiting the government from purchasing vehicles that didn't meet certain safety standards,) so similar legislation would be required for chairs presumably.

  5. Yep, patents and copyrights… sigh… It's pretty bad when a chair comes with a five page manual of adjustments…

  6. Years ago I had job that pretty much glued me to desk for most of the day.
    I asked the department secretary if she could get me an ergonomic "knee-sitting" chair like the one I had at home.


    OSHA regulations wouldn't allow her to order any chair with fewer than 5 wheels.

  7. You do realize that the standard, nowadays, would be a Bluetooth-enabled chair with all adjustments made via a smartphone app…?

  8. Copyright? Trademark? Market competition? Regulatory capture?

    Just spitballing here …

  9. Hah! I saw this and thought of the chairs in the lab at work. One of them lives at the balance, and it's never right because we all use it and adjust it as needed. It can be a pain, literally.

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