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For those of you who worked in an office in 1960's - 1980's

332 replies

Choccyhobnob · 14/09/2017 11:28

The childhood memories thread reminded me of something I have wondered for years!

I work in an office and have done for the last 12 years. I have never known a time before emails and photocopiers.

My question is this - what did you actually do? I just can't imagine how office life worked back then and I'm really interested!

Thank you for indulging my perhaps naïve questions!

OP posts:
MyHairNeedsASnip · 14/09/2017 14:13

I loved the dodgy tannoy messages 'Don Kiddick to reception please' Grin

andbabymakesthree · 14/09/2017 14:14

I used to answer the typetalk phone too!

andbabymakesthree · 14/09/2017 14:14

I used to answer the typetalk phone too!

Andrewofgg · 14/09/2017 14:15

At one time in the Eighties the "typist grades" were supposed to lock away the power cords to the typewriters at night. Everyone has a price and there was one who would forget to lock the drawer if you left a bag of her favourite sweets on her desk. She was known as the Pineapple Cubist.

bluebellation · 14/09/2017 14:35

Reading these has made me so nostalgic ! I had a blast in my first job - there were 4 or 5 of us juniors on our section and although we did work hard I also made some really good friends and I'm sure it wasn't as pressured as nowadays. As people have commented, nothing was expected 'instantly', as the processes involved just didn't allow for that.

I also remember we had to call the head of our office department 'Mr so-and-so'. If we'd used his first name I imagine it would have been a disciplinary matter!

fourquenelles · 14/09/2017 14:40

My first job in 1974 was as a technician/librarian in a University department. Every morning I had to make sure that the machinery was aligned to receive a NASA satellite weather map as it passed over the UK and then set the output with an acetone type liquid. I carried huge wooden trays of punch cards to input them into the computer across the road (which was the size of a house). I was given the first golf ball typewriter in the university to use and used carbon paper and a gestetner machine.
My second job in 1977 required me to read through huge files of paper and write decision letters by hand. These were sent down to the typing pool and 1 or 2 days later came back to be proof read with another colleague, then returned for correction and back to the pool if necessary. The post and the telephone were the way we communicated - every phone call had a hand written note made of the content and decisions and was filed. Lots and lots of paper!

BackieJerkhart · 14/09/2017 14:40

The company I just left a few months ago still uses fax machines and only got laptops and work email addresses for each store in June. Grin

Gottalovesummer · 14/09/2017 14:57

Mid 80's, worked for mortgage broker of high street bank. Everything was paper recorded, so customers would phone us for a balance etc and we'd rummage through paper index cards to find their details. Unbelievable!

I also remember the "computer room " it was a very mysterious place that only a select few were allowed to enter. I never made it in there

Also remember being completely flummoxed by the fax machine!

brokenshoes · 14/09/2017 15:45

I started my first job in 1999 and remember being perplexed when being asked by my boss to send a memo to someone in the office. Why not just send an email Confused

I had just graduated from university and had been used to communicating by email for a couple of years from the campus computer rooms.

I guess the late 90s was very much the cusp of paper vs electronic communication methods.

Fax · 14/09/2017 15:51

I started work in the civil service in 1975.
Everything was on paper. Files, card indexes, notebooks.
We spoke to people on the phone a lot more, actually this was often more efficient than e mail in a large organisation where people are bombarded with hundreds of emails.
Information was circulated in a folder and everyone had to sign to say they had read it.

I had to hand write reports, decisions letters and briefs, then send them to the typists. They would be back on my desk within an hour.

People smoked at their desk. My boss smoked a pipe Grin. The whole office was a blue fug.

x2boys · 14/09/2017 16:11

My mum worked at the Gas board through out the 80,s and early 90,s she talked a lot about VDU,s visual display units ?She used to work in accounts so she would sort out people's gas bills this was a time when you could phone a local number and talk to someone in person about your bill imagine thatShock

Sparklingbrook · 14/09/2017 16:19

I worked in a bank when I left school. Customer's bank balances were on microfiche that were delivered in the internal mail every morning. So that was the day's balance, til the next one arrived.

Some customer's had all their cheques back with their statements so had to go rummaging for them every day.

The fax machine was used a lot, and IIRC the photocopier involved two sheets of paper and a pink sheet in between.

Adding machines had a paper roll. I can still use a numeric keyboard very fast without having to look. Grin

x2boys · 14/09/2017 16:25

I have never worked in an office I was a nurse but up untill 12 or so years ago all our patients notes were handwritten I was a mental health nurse so our patients generally had various professionals involved ie psychiatrist , CPN in patient staff social workers etc and everyone had their own set of paper written notes and then they developed a computerised system and each professional had access to one central electronic notes it was so much easier and you could see who had done what.

Whinesalot · 14/09/2017 16:28

Yellow pages was used a lot.

Sparklingbrook · 14/09/2017 16:29

Also we used to have to physically take the huge franking machine in it's entirety to the main Post Office to have money put on it. We wrote them a cheque.

Whinesalot · 14/09/2017 16:32

I was told off for wearing trousers in the late 1980's. When my enlightened self relied "you can't say that" my boss replied "Oh yes I can if you want to keep your job"

BeatriceBeaudelaire · 14/09/2017 16:33

I know how you all use these things to get stuff done but I want to know ... how bloody long did t take? Surely the output went at a snails pace ??

ProfYaffle · 14/09/2017 16:44

I had a summer job cleaning offices in the early 90s. All the office staff seemed to smoke at their desks and it was utter carnage! Burn marks, ash, fag ends all over the place. Hard to image why it was every allowed.

I started working for a Local Authority in 2000 which was mostly like going back to the 80s Wink I remember one of the older senior managers used to get his secretary to print out his e-mails, he'd hand write a reply on them and get her to type it out and send it back!

Whinesalot · 14/09/2017 16:47


We had lots of "pending" files.

ForalltheSaints · 14/09/2017 16:50

Memos that were typed up by an office manager or secretary and arrived once a day were commonplace, and I worked for a firm where one of the subsidiaries seemed to send hundreds a week. Used to dread the c11am arrival of them.

BMW6 · 14/09/2017 16:55

I worked for HMRC from 1975. Every PAYE employee had a concard about 10" by 7", on which was recorded absolutely everything about them, covering about 7 years?.
When a person changed jobs their concard had to be sent to the tax office dealing with their new employer.
Each tax officer had an allocation of around 3000 employees to look after - so 3000 concards in drawers at their desk, in hods.

Every day new concards would arrive to be filed away, and requests received for concards to be removed and sent by mail all over the country.

No calculators (weren't commonly available or affordable for a few more years). To work out tax we had sets of tables to work it all out by hand.....

When I look back it was an amazing system and worked extremely well. Every taxpayer knew the name of the person who was entirely responsible for dealing with their income tax, and their individual phone number........

BMW6 · 14/09/2017 16:58

Gah - I should add that everyone had a file too where their returns, letters etc were stored, and they were sent off with the concards.

BringMeTea · 14/09/2017 17:05

I worked somewhere in the mid 90s that had a typing pool in Bournemouth. Every day a van drove down stuff to be typed/amended etc and then you waited for it to come back. We were in HQ in Manchester. Grin

SweetLuck · 14/09/2017 17:07

Feeling soooooo nostalgic reading this thread.

Sparklingbrook · 14/09/2017 17:11

Every first of the month at the bank the statements would arrive. A pile about two feet tall, all connected together with perforations. they all had to be ripped, folded and stuffed into envelopes, franked and taken to the post office.

Now it just seems Confused but then it was just the norm and a job that had to be done by the office junior within deadlines.

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