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A Lighthearted Look Back at the Olden Days

March 26, 2012

I don’t want to date myself too much but I was talking to a (younger) friend recently about the changes in technology over the years.  I happened to mention that when I first started working, one of our means of communication with the outside world was via a telex machine.

At the time, I worked for a large full service advertising agency and we had the best of what technology had to offer.

This was long before email or even personal computers.  We did have a networked computer system where we logged bookings but other than that the only ways to communicate with clients and suppliers was either in person, via the telephone (land-line of course), fax or telex.

For those of you younger generation who don’t know what a telex machine is; it was like a very large computer/electric typewriter.  It had a keyboard and a roll of paper so that you could see what you had typed.  As you typed your message it spit out a ribbon punctuated with holes.  Mistakes could not be corrected so extreme caution was needed.

Once you had finished your message you tore off the ribbon, flipped it around and place it in the ‘send’ hole/port.  After connecting to your destination telex you ‘flipped the switch’ and the tape made its way through the port thereby spewing out your message at the other end.

Great care had to be taken to ensure that the ribbon was placed in the ‘send’ port in the correct orientation otherwise shear gobbledygook came out the other end.  I made this unfortunate mistake only once I hasten to add.

Things that now take us but a few seconds to accomplish used to take hours and sometimes even days.  There was also a much more formal approach to business; bosses were referred to as Mr. or Sir, or very occasionally Mrs. or Ma’am.  I cut my teeth typing memos (the predecessor of email) and letters with carbon copies and correcting my typing mistakes with Whiteout (or Tipp-Ex as it was known in England).

There were no distractions like personal email, Facebook or mobile phones and personal phone calls were only allowed if it was an emergency.  I am glad that I have the work ethic that I do because of this now rather antiquated initiation but I’m also glad we’ve moved on and look forward to seeing what comes next.

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