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Amazonia posted 5/20/2014 09:39 AM

Guys, don't laugh at me. I have a question. I mean it in all seriousness, and I don't mean to make anyone feel old, I promise. I just know that you'll all be able to answer it for me (because no one my age can!) And I really do want answers.

Before computers and email, what did people do in office jobs?

I ask because one of my friends' office was without their computer system for 2 hours today, and she literally couldn't do any work without email, database or shared drive. It just made me wonder how anything got done before all that existed!

We got our first computer (a hand me down from my dad's office) when I was in like 2nd grade. We got home internet when I was in 5th grade. I just literally cannot fathom the white collar working world without computers.

Tell me about it...

sisoon posted 5/20/2014 09:58 AM

Oh, you had things like address books, telephones that you could hear over, dictation machines, typists, documents on paper that could be read and acted upon (often even if the power was off), comptometers, spreadsheets on paper, the ability to do math on paper or in your head....

[This message edited by sisoon at 9:59 AM, May 20th (Tuesday)]

TrulyReconciled posted 5/20/2014 10:00 AM


We wrote letters. We typed. We cut and pasted (manually, with paste, - where the hell else do you think those terms came from?). We used IBM Selectric IIs with correction fluid/tape. We used the phone.

We used real film and photos. We drew by hand. We delivered stuff by hand.

Then, the asteroid hit ...

Rebreather posted 5/20/2014 10:33 AM

We called people. And left messages. And then they called you. And left a message. And so then you called them back. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It took forever to type a perfect doument.

We also talked with our coworkers a lot more. It still cracks me up that I email someone sitting 20 feet away.

But I know what you mean. Last week I was working in my Las Vegas office and our internet went down. When I'm working remote like that I'm totally stuck without the internets. I can often fake it on my phone, but I just decided to leave early instead, lol.

Sad in AZ posted 5/20/2014 10:42 AM

We also had telex machines to receive 'instant' information and prior to that tickertape machines.

That's where tickertape parades got their 'confetti'

Newlease posted 5/20/2014 10:44 AM

Everything was on paper. We typed documents on typewriters and had to use correction tape or fluid when we made a mistake. That is why it was so important to practice typing without mistakes. Back in the day, I could type 85 wpm with 2 mistakes.

I also took dictation - where I would go into my boss's office with a pad of paper and he would dictate while I wrote what he said in shorthand - then I would transcribe it on the typewriter. We kept ledgers - big books with columns that we wrote in (with pens) to keep track of things instead of computer spreadsheets.

I also did EVERYTHING for my boss including cleaning his desk and cleaning up after his pipe. He smoked at his desk and it was a mess. He would also have me fetch him coffee whenever he needed a refill.

It really makes me laugh when I think back to those times. If I asked my Admin to do any of those things, I would get dragged into HR!

Man - I'm old.


TrulyReconciled posted 5/20/2014 10:56 AM

I still remember our first word processing computers bought back in 1982 or so. The 'Rainbow 100' had very small screens with dark blue letters on a light blue field (monochrome of course), could do simple word processing ONLY and used software called WPS I believe (for Word Processing System). DOS-based with 8-bit (or 16?) code, 8088 bus, 5 1/4" 400kb floppies (LOL).

Those 'computers' cost about $6500 in 1982

Can you even spend $6500 on a personal computer today?

[This message edited by TrulyReconciled at 11:05 AM, May 20th (Tuesday)]

Amazonia posted 5/20/2014 11:56 AM

telex and tickertape - both words I've heard before, but have no mental image/concept for. Off to google...

ETA: Oh, and thank you (sincerely) for answering in seriousness. I find this interesting. It seems very inefficient in comparison to what we have now.

[This message edited by Amazonia at 11:57 AM, May 20th (Tuesday)]

Crescita posted 5/20/2014 12:00 PM

Ama, for your homework this evening, watch Mad Men.

gahurts posted 5/20/2014 12:08 PM

I used to write memos on 3 part carbon less forms and put them in inter office mail. And it was fine that the recipient got it the next day or two.

I would hand write reports and give them to the secretary to type up on an electric typewriter. At least we had photocopiers. When I was in school I got in a bunch of trouble because I used up too many of those expensive blue masters used in the mimeograph machine.

kwash posted 5/20/2014 12:16 PM

I finished school and started working in the mid-90's, but I still remember:
- mimeographs and how they smelled and felt (they were smooth, cool and damp when fresh).
- putting inter-office mail into a capsule and inserting it into a pneumatic tube to go to the mailroom (so Jetsons)!
- answering the telephone without knowing who was calling (I hate talking on the phone so now is better).

tushnurse posted 5/20/2014 12:19 PM

When I was a brand new nurse 22 years ago this month, I worked in a facility that had State of the Art computer systems, and we used those strictly to communicate lab results from the lab to the ICU, and we had one of the first Digital image monitors to review Xrays.

Now everything is done on the computers in the hospitals. We did all are charting pen to paper, we took vital signs using our hands to feel a pulse, and eyes to watch respirations, and ears to hear blood pressures. ICU nursing we had the benefit of having Cardiac monitors, but we still had to calculate all our own drips, and mix our own drips.

Now the Vitals download directly from the monitors directly to the electronic chart, you can see the Xray results on any computer, and all documentation is done on the computer. Things that make this wonderful, is there is less chance for errors, and I can finally have my notes read by others, and no longer have to spend hours deciphering what the MD's wrote as well.

Lots of things have changed that is for sure.
Unfortunately the attention to the technology has taken away from the quality of care, and that true nursng hands on, face to face communication that make my profession so great.

painpaingoaway posted 5/20/2014 12:57 PM

Haha, this is funny. We had teletype machines, adding machines, telephones, lots and lots of carbon paper, correction fluids, and then when the typewriters came out with the correction tapes woohoo, we thought that was something! I worked on the waterfront with steamship agents, Customs, Agriculture, shipping lines, trucking lines, banks, warehouses, custom house brokers and foreign freight forwarders and our customers from all over the world. LOTS and LOTS of documents. We had runners that took the documents from one place to another.

And yes, we smoked in the office.

IrishGirlVA posted 5/20/2014 13:05 PM

lots and lots of carbon paper

Oh man, I miss the smell of carbon paper. I remember the invention of adding lift off correction tapes to typewriters, too. I thought it was heaven on earth!

I still remember the bell sound the typewriter made when having to advance to the next line.

Today, I don't even think I'd be able to feed a piece of paper straight.

My first job when I was in college was at a bank. I remember those horrible passbooks people used for their savings accounts. Are those still around?

Kind of makes me wonder what things will look like 20 years from now.

[This message edited by IrishGirlVA at 1:13 PM, May 20th (Tuesday)]

Lucky2HaveMe posted 5/20/2014 14:04 PM

My college major was Executive Secretarial Science - not to be confused with Medical Office Assistant (they had to dissect cats )

The IBM Selectric was just invented. Lift off tape wouldn't come for another year or so. Our HS typewriters were manual. We had classes in shorthand, grammar and....

Personal Grooming! Yep - that first impression was important to those execs! We had a guest come in to educate us in how to apply makeup and tweeze our eyebrows. We had to learn how to carry a cup of coffee up & down stairs without spilling a drip. We had to learn how to stand properly and sit *like a lady*.

Can you imagine these classes nowadays?!

My first job was in corporate America - we used carbon paper and we had *portable* electric typewriters (those IBM selectrics were EXPENSIVE). We had to sort and deliver the mail via a shopping cart type thing, file everything manually, perge files, feed documents one-by-one into the microfiche machine. Send telexes and telegrams for anything that was *urgent*. Forms were carbonized and damn it was hell if you made a typo on a 6-10 page carbon pack! About 5 years after along came WANG word processing. WOOT! Which was great basically for letters. Forms were still manually typed via that portable typewriter.

My kids laugh when I tell them to stay in touch with friends while at school we had to send letters, in the mail, wait a few days for our friend to get it, read it, and hopefully they would write back! It was such a thrill to get MAIL. Phone calls? Not so much. Long distance charges, and we poor college students had to save those pennies to call home occasionally.

No one thought back in those olden days that we would be carrying around a computer in our hands. Computers took up a WHOLE ROOM or BUILDING!

TrulyReconciled posted 5/20/2014 14:44 PM

Before computers a quality IBM Selectric II would cost you $2000 or more. For a typewriter.

A few years later after the computer revolution you could buy them used (if you needed them for forms, etc.) for $20.

Rebreather posted 5/20/2014 14:57 PM

Back in the day when you needed to send a mass communication, we would use a fax machine. About once a week I had to fax my whole board which is about 30 people, so I would sit there and hand write cover sheets, insert into the fax machine, dial number, beeeeeeeeepp bleep blip blah bleep bleeeeeeppp blep, wait...make next cover sheet...wait....insert next fax.

Now you just hit "d list" and boom. Done.

hathnofury posted 5/20/2014 15:37 PM

I am seriously surprised that no one has mentioned FILE CABINETS. You kept paper copies of everything, and you had a system of how all that is stored in the file cabinets. Even today, there are warehouses full of file cabinets and file boxes that use such a system to retrieve paper records that were kept prior to computer ones.

I think that a lot of offices really have failed in figuring out a backup system in the event of a power outage, network failure, etc. Many full service restaurants have an emergency system in place for their servers for when the power goes down (paper menu with pricing, a calculator, how to calculate taxes and tip, the old carbon paper credit card receipt machines, etc) so they can continue to finish the tables they started until the power comes back on. It would not be that hard to implement such a thing in an office.

ISPIFFD posted 5/20/2014 15:38 PM

Ah, yes, typing with Carbon Paper and a bottle of white-out (invented by Monkee Mike Nesmith's mother - didjaknowthat?).

When I was in high school, I was the "typesetter" for the student newspaper, which meant I had to take every handwritten story and type it up into columns, carefully counting the number of spaces and characters in every column line so that I could then add the correct number of /// to the end of each line to equal the predetermined column width.

Then the high school admin secretary typed up the final version and used the number of /// I added to figure out how many extra spaces went in between the words in that line as she typed it, and that's how we achieved the justified look of newspaper columns - wooo!

I agree, the invention of the IBM selectric correctible typewriter was better than sliced bread.

And then there was the telephone... that thing that had a dial in the middle of its face that some secretaries could dial with a pen if they were really good.

I broke sooo many old-style adding machines. I would confuse them, and they would simply stop working and need to be shipped off to repair.

twisted posted 5/20/2014 16:45 PM

Anybody remember the purple mimeograph machine ink for school papers, take a big whiff and get high.
...ok, maybe that was just me, was the '70's.... nevermind.

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