Posted by: Kenn Hermann | December 12, 2006

Ancient Aid for the Multi-tasking Scholar

Although I am deeply burrowed in grading final exams and term papers, I just not could resist coming up for air and writing a post on this marvelous 16th c. device I just discovered. What scholar has not longed for more flat surfaces to accommodate multiple books open to relevant sections for the research they are doing? Apparently scholars of all ages have had similar longings. Check out this “rotary reading desk” from 1588. (…and then browse this delightfully weird website.) Of all the crazy shortcuts and ‘inventions’ I created in grad school all those decades ago to make the ingestion of knowledge more efficient, I never thought of this. The possibilities of such a desk are endless. My computer tech friends have been encouraging me for months to hook up multiple monitors to serve the same purpose. My wife is always needling me about all of the flat surfaces I am continually adding to my study to hold those ‘must read’ books and journals. Even the ingenious inventor-scholar, Thomas Jefferson, seems not to have dreamed of such a device. Would Donald Norman consider this device to be a technology that makes us smarter? Did MS, Google, and Firefox steal this idea for their tabbed browsing? . . . . but where to write those notes? balance the laptop?

What a delight to discover this tool in an otherwise dreary season.



  1. I like it, at least the cleverness of it. But, I think I would prefer a horizontal one with me in the middle. I could move my rolling chair to find the book I wanted.


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