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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:
EastMidsGPs · 14/09/2017 17:14

I was in a shop earlier this week where the assistant used an order book with carbon paper to write my receipt!

When our NHS dept moved to recording test reports on PC, I managed to delete a whole month's worth of test results and at the time no one thought to back work up. I was not popular.
The internal post system was very efficient and you saw lots of medical secretaries stalking the corridors with with an armful of case notes or sheets of paper, stopping when the chance arose for a chat.

BabsGanoush · 14/09/2017 17:19

LoniceraJaponica, or may i call you Honeysuckle? Thanks for posting a pic, as I can remember them but not what they were called.

I remember having a desk, with drawers. Everyone had their own desk. With your own crap on it, photos of the children, perfume, food. In/Out/pending paper trays. Everyone had something pending from 1975 that they were still working on. Your friends and family could come into the office and wait for you.

You could keep all sorts of non-work related stuff in the drawers - sanitary towels, more food.

Now we have hot-desking and clear-desk policies Sad

NetballHoop · 14/09/2017 17:20

I worked in advertising at my first job. It seemed to involve much more time drinking than working.

We had one PC in our department with Wordperfect on it. You could type up documents but couldn't see what they looked like before printing as the display font was fixed and you had to put codes in to make it bigger/smaller bold etc. Oh the memories!

For those of you who worked in an office in 1960's - 1980's
EastMidsGPs · 14/09/2017 17:21

When I started my last job in 2002 I was gobsmacked to discover that every letter in or out was recorded.
I happened to say jokingly one day that I was worried about Winchester and was asked why. Said we'd not written to them for a while .. at this point the office manager did concede they were wasting time every day recording all post in and out.
However during a recent restructure a small out in the field office was closed. It was discovered that the admin there had been diligently writing out whole answerphone messages (word for word) into a book, her manager then signed and dated these when read.

LoafEater · 14/09/2017 17:27

First job was in wine company office 1984.
Customer called in and placed the order over the phone and you write it down on a manual order sheet.
Then you transferred the formation to a manual spreadsheet in pencil. Only at he ending the working day after checked by the supervisor, you totalled it up in ink.
Then you typed the order details into the telex machine to the warehouse to despatch.
Then you have the carbon copy of the telex, with the copy of the order stapled to it, to the computer lady. She sat in a separate air conditioned room wth a hard drive the size of a small car. She typed the stock figures in to the one and only computer.

We all smoked at our desks and had two hour lunch breaks down the pub on Fridays.

thecatfromjapan · 14/09/2017 17:27

This is a fun thread. I remember subsidised canteens. My strongest memories were of the amount of filing (of paper copies). Everything had to be kept, in multiple location for multiple copies, for six years. My job seemed to be a circle of feeding this filing monster with new paper offerings, and slewing the six-year detritus.

thecatfromjapan · 14/09/2017 17:29

The internal post was amazing, though. Very regular and efficient.

And we had a stationery office, which you could either go to, in person, and put in orders (filled out on a carboned sheet) or use the internal post and have your items delivered by the internal post.

thecatfromjapan · 14/09/2017 17:31

We used to get tea breaks, too, for the whole office. And someone with a trolley would come around for the managers.

SocksRock · 14/09/2017 17:34

I was using microfiche in the office just yesterday actually. So not totally obsolete yet! I work for a Local Authority and all the original drawings for their buildings going back 70 years or so are on microfiche. If we find an interesting one, I phone a man up and he comes and collects them, and about a day later it appears in my inbox as a PDF. At some point he brings the index cards back and I refile them

EmmaGrundyForPM · 14/09/2017 17:38

I remember the smoking at work. In the staff room, in meetings.....

My mum was an infant school teacher. I remember she spent ages writing out stuff for the kids to do - easy sums, spellings to learn etc, then having to banda it. Purple ink everywhere from.the banda machine.

EastMidsGPs · 14/09/2017 17:38

I had a temp job one summer that involved searching for information backwards and forwards on microfiche, I lasted a morning, operating it gave me something akin to seasickness. They sent me home once I'd covered their desk with puke.

ChinkChink · 14/09/2017 18:01

Touch typing the most useful thing I ever learned. Can still do over 60 wpm easily without looking at keyboard. Taking shorthand dictation soon became outdated. I used a lot of tippex strips which were good except with carbon copies. Rip it out and start again.

FineSally · 14/09/2017 18:03

I worked as an accountancy assistant in a regional HQ for a large retail corporation (FTSE 100) in the early 1980's. I did double-entry book-keeping up to trial balance on an entirely manual system. Knowing the basics certainly helped me in my later career as a computer programmer/analyst working on financial systems.

We had THREE dining rooms. One for senior managers, which was waitress service. One for the salaried staff, which was self-service, but we had water glasses & tablecloths, and we didn't have to clear our dirty plates away. The weekly paid staff had the old-school type of canteen with formica-topped tables & they had to clear up after themselves. I don't remember any money changing hands so I think the cost of a fairly basic 2 course hot meal or salad must have been included in the salary package.
This company also gave us a Christmas Bonus. Weekly staff got cash, salaried staff got 3 bottles of spirits, and the senior managers got a hamper.
The sheer hierarchy of it all really bugged me. My desk was in an office with 9 weekly-paid staff, and they didn't want anything to do with me when they found out I was salaried (even though I had no supervisory responsibilities & we worked for the same manager). I don't think I was earning that much more than they did.

Only senior managers were allowed to join the pension scheme - something that really rankles now.

The company was split up about 10 years ago and the retail division sold off shortly afterwards. The regional office I worked in has gone.

Openup41 · 14/09/2017 18:09

In 2001 I worked for a small charity. You could only email and access the internet from one monitor - the office manager's! I felt like I had stepped back into the stone age especially as I had a PC at home. I also had to collect and take mail to the post office on a daily basis.

I do recall a service manager I supported who wrote out a full address on a blank piece of paper and handed it to me to write on an envelope.

I left after six months.

MyShrivelledGnarlyFinger · 14/09/2017 18:17

Late 70's we used pen and paper mostly. There was a keyboard of sorts known as "the machine" Grin which gave us up to date information from HQ. Day old information came via a daily delivery of microfiche. The phone rang constantly the switchboard still had the plug system. Lots of paper in files along the walls, had to search through so much is something got lost.

Openup41 · 14/09/2017 18:17

Reading your experiences and listening to others, it really seems as though work was enjoyable years ago. It certainly appeared less stressful and like a poster said - actions were not expected instantly. Nowadays when a colleague emails, they will phone a few minutes later if you do not respond immediately. Technology also means you are always on call, checking emails on your way to and from work and whilst on leave. People do not switch off and are not expected to. I have received emails late at night regarding an early morning meeting with the expectation being I will check my email on my commute.

MilkTrayLimeBarrel · 14/09/2017 18:17

I worked for a Building Society but not in a Branch. We used to have to make up the Passbooks by hand and some of them had not been sent in for years and years! If the transactions were not available on computer, we had to go back to microfiche and even film to catch the transactions!!

I did shorthand and used to take dictation every day from my boss and then type up the memos and letters, all with carbon copies!

It was a fun time though - we used to go to the pub every Friday lunchtime and never did any work in the afternoon! Those were the days!

Gottalovesummer · 14/09/2017 18:18

Oh yes, the email thing! I met someone on holiday and she emailed me at work (no one I knew had their own email address) so my office manager would print out her emails for me. Imagine that now!

This was around 1999/2000 so not that long ago!

Nettletheelf · 14/09/2017 18:20

I had a summer job in an office in 1987, after I did my O levels and before starting sixth form. It was with a business that traded exotic woods (less exciting than it sounds).

Although I was the summer temp, the hierarchies mentioned above were alive and well and everybody there was keen to give me advice on how to progress to the dizzy heights of filing clerk. I was starting A levels in physics, maths and chemistry FFS.

My tasks comprised the following:

Each month, putting statements and invoices in enveloped and sealing the envelopes using the roller damper. Somebody else mentioned this upthread.

Going our for fags and sweets for my colleagues.

Ripping the perforated edges off the massive green and white striped sheets of computer paper.

Shredding documents.

Filing (I was crap at it. Like another poster upthread, I just took a punt. It was only later that I realised that Keruang and Sapele are exotic hardwoods and not customers' surnames. In my defence, everyone was bloody handwritten!)

On one memorable occasion, staggering around the office with a massive heavy wooden tray containing cakes, with a strap around my neck, because one of the salesmen had turned 30 and wanted to show some largesse. It wasn't open plan, either: loads of cellular offices and stairwells, so loads of doors to attempt to open with my massive burden!

No email, of course. The office manager spent her days smoking, spraying on Blue Grass and telephoning customers and suppliers in a hilarious posh voice.

My mum had a super 8 camera in the late 60s and filmed her office. Not a computer in sight, of course. They were all smoking, dancing to the radio and buying fags from the tea trolley (the tea lady, in her overall, walked into the shot then reversed out like Acorn Antiques!)

Piffpaffpoff · 14/09/2017 18:23

I started as an office junior in 1988 in a large HQ of an insurance company. This is how our day went...

Get the mail from the mail room.
Write the reference numbers from each letter on stickers and send the stickers down to the files in the basement where a team of what seemed like very old men and ladies would pull out the paper files.
While they were doing that, you would walk round the departments on a prescribed route picking up their typing and taking it to the typing pool.
You would then pick up typed letters and deliver them back round your route.
Twice a day you had to go to the fax machine and check if there were any faxes for delivery.
Lunchtime you checked if the files were back from filing. If they couldn't find any they'd write on the sticker who had it and you spent a couple of hours each afternoon doing 'paperchase' which was trying to find files that you needed but were in other depts.
I wish we'd had pedometers as we must have walked miles each day.

You did this for approx 6 weeks then got moved into a department to do admin. There were 2 pcs between 16 folk, and 1 phone between 4. I calculated policy values and I had a huge desktop calculator that I used.

The first sighting of the internet in the office was 1997 - I remember because we spent ages trying to get it to dial up so we could write in Diana's online condolence book.

LoafEater · 14/09/2017 18:24

In 2001, if I wanted to send an email from my desk on London, I had to call the Liverpool head office and they would "switch on the internet", I would send the email and then call them back to switch it off again!

Davros · 14/09/2017 18:27

I think that photo is a comptometer(?) not a calculator. My first job also 1977. I loved working in an office, such a laugh!! I worked for a company that was owned by a BIG American company and we had a fax machine but almost everywhere else didn't so we had no-one to send them to other than internal! The computer room was huge and you had to go to a slidey window to talk to them or pass them work, no-one was allowed in in case of contamination. I took shorthand and typed on an IBM golf ball typewriter. Otherwise we used Ping Pong memos. I used to help out on the switchboard at lunchtimes which had a whole room and was a dolls eye switchboard with those leads and plus you pull out. We went to the pub A LOT and there were licensing hours in those days. We'd wait for the pub to reopen at 5.30pm and everyone would be in there. I also remember the strippers in the pub at lunchtime. Happy days!!

ChickenVindaloo2 · 14/09/2017 18:27

I work in residential conveyancing.
Faxes are still routinely used by solicitors and banks!

DMCWelshCakes · 14/09/2017 18:28

ProfYaffle the head of my organisation STILL works like that!

FineSally · 14/09/2017 18:34

davros the comptometer in my dept (1980's) looked like this - there was no paper roll. The woman who operated it was an absolute whizz on it. I have never managed to figure out how it worked.

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