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Mumsnet classics

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:
gingergenius · 14/09/2017 20:37

WordPerfect was the the word processing programme of choice. Microsoft word was all commands and functions and very clunky. We used dot-matrix printers and 5&3/4in and 3&1/2 in floppy discs.

gingergenius · 14/09/2017 20:38

Kalamazoo filing systems!

Hassled · 14/09/2017 20:38

Laska - I was a BT Clerical Assistant in the late 80s too. I used to file the residential sales contracts for the region in telephone number order. That's all I did.

Then I moved to a different department and learnt the joys of Wordstar. It predated MS Word by quite a way and was pretty laborious but at the time it seemed like magic.

gingergenius · 14/09/2017 20:38

And getting paid weekly in cash in a little brown envelope!

Hassled · 14/09/2017 20:39

I'd forgotten about the Official Secrets Act - I signed that too. Am I still bound by it?

thecatfromjapan · 14/09/2017 20:40

Oh my goodness! I think I had to sign the Official Secrets Act!!! That's ringing a bell!

My memory is terrible. Sad

Laska you really should write up what you remember. I think the telephone services were an early mass employer of women and it's a fascinating slice of women's history that isn't well-known. The women I met had experienced a high degree of financial autonomy at a time when that was quite unusual and they weren;t the usual middle class women that you do tend to hear about in women's history.

I really do mean it when I say I regret not having written up their stories.

thecatfromjapan · 14/09/2017 20:41

... and you, too, Hassled. Smile

Laska5772 · 14/09/2017 20:44

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Laska5772 · 14/09/2017 20:46

oh heck that second on isnt right!! ill get it taken down right away

FrancisCrawford · 14/09/2017 20:47

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Laska5772 · 14/09/2017 20:48

so sorry . a genuine mistake there how utterly embarrasing

Alabasterangel6 · 14/09/2017 20:56

The carbon paper came in a really solid a4 box with tissue sheets between it. You re-used over and over till it didn't work any more.

Yes to stapling the fax sent slips to the documents. They were thermal paper and discoloured over time!

Everything being date/received/sent/paid stamped with a stamper.

Providing coffee and cream in a jug to visitors in cups and saucers (they get a Starbucks from subsidised canteen now!).

Memos. Endless memos.

SusanTheGentle · 14/09/2017 21:08

I got my first office junior job in about 1998 one summer. I could touch type, answer phones and I knew how the computers worked, I was super popular.

I recall my dad telling me when I got my first professional role in about 2005 never to let the men know I could touch type or I'd be writing things up for them all day..
I don't think it would even have occurred to my colleagues to handwrite anything by then, and in fact I've been the envy of many colleagues for my 90wpm skillz.

BananaSandwichesEveryDay · 14/09/2017 21:29

I worked in benefits offices from the late 1970's to mid 1980's. We interviewed people claiming benefits, answered telephone calls that were put through to us by the office operator and responded to correspondence by hand. We calculated benefits manually and had to complete a multitude of forms to arrange payment, either via the employment office or by issuing a weekly payment book. Used to take ages and we were often delayed when people didn't bring relevant evidence in when they made their claim. No computers back then - even a calculator was considered 'hi-tech '.
We had no targets as such, but our supervisor would keep a check on our in-trays as well as checking a percentage of our calculations. After a couple of years I moved into the role of office cashier which meant I was responsible for recording and issuing receipts for cash paid into the office ( NI contributions) as well as calculating and paying weekly wages in cash. I also had to prepare and balance the office account, monthly and annually, which were then sent to the Newcastle office.

Jogel · 14/09/2017 21:31

Great thread! My first full-time job (1984) was in the Computer Dept of a large manufacturing company, operating a VAX mainframe computer, which had it's own climate controlled room. Data was backed up onto huge reels of tape and you had to type in commands via a console to mount/ummount the tape.
There was a social club which was open at lunchtimes, people who operated machinery in the factory would have a few pints Shock during lunch hour.
Everyone smoked at their desks. We'd dress up anyone getting married and parade them around the site on their last day before their wedding. Women who left to have a baby rarely returned after maternity leave, being a SAHM was commonplace.

woodhill · 14/09/2017 21:34

Loads of memos and copies for everyone.

Abra1d · 14/09/2017 21:37

Im the early nineties we had a modem connection between the markering department I worked for and our designers. You transferred files by sticking a disk into a kind of computer drive connected to a phone line. It was dial up and was considered state of the art. But you had to wait to disconnect it when the file had transferred.

Davros · 14/09/2017 21:42

I was still using my shorthand at my last job in 2002. It wasn't required but everywhere I've worked found it useful. Does anyone else remember Signature Books? A3 book with pages made of blotting paper and you put the letters and shit for signature inside each page. We had a machine for taking off the perforated holey sides of computer printouts.

Laska5772 · 14/09/2017 21:42

Yes smoking in office. And tea ladies ) they were always ladies) and men who thought it was ok to comment on and sometimes grope the young female juniors.
I once had a boss who asked me if I was wearing a bra! I was about 17.
And of course they would ask you if you were "engaged yet" at interviews and if you intended to have babies .....

Chestervase1 · 14/09/2017 21:49

IBM golf ball typewriters. What was the typeface that had different spacing for different letters, I can't remember now.

BikeRunSki · 14/09/2017 21:54

The summer I left school - mic 1980s- I had a job as a dispatch rider in Central London. Most of my jobs were delivering letters - I was like real time email.

SwedishEdith · 14/09/2017 21:56

FineSally - I wonder if we worked in the same place? We had 3 canteens as well depending on your position in the organisation. I had to clock on and off. If I was more than 3 minutes late, I'd lose 15 minutes pay (This applied to all staff!). To avoid this, train and bus times meant I had to be 20 minutes early and yet got no credit for that.

We had a tea trolley that came round in the morning (could get toast as well) and the afternoon. And got 45 minutes for lunch, precisely. Lots of bells for every break.

RaininSummer · 14/09/2017 21:59

I was a civil servant from 1981. We used to calculate people's benefits with pen, calculator and paper claims folders. All post was physically walked through the offices by the assistants to pair it with their folder. One memorable day the mortgage interest rate went up several times which kept us busy redoing all claims before the giros were printed. We got computers just before I left in 1985.

Eastpoint · 14/09/2017 22:03

Started at 9:30 & finished at 5:30. Worked in the City but had my hair cut in my lunch hour in the West End. Had lunch with wine with my colleagues for no special reason. Got taken out for champagne at lunch by random young men. Lots of bombscares on the way home. Knew everybody's phone numbers off by heart. My boss would ask me why I was still in the office if I was there at 5:35.

mumof2kiddos · 14/09/2017 22:11

worked in mid 90s in a power distribution company in its commercial division.

  1. Used to write letters on papers and then sent to admin for getting it typed with 2/3 copies
  2. Had a computer but only used for MS-Office and printouts of report. NO internet
  3. Fax and Photocopies - loads and loads
  4. This particular division used to work with consumer grievances regarding incorrect meter readings. These meter readings were written down onsite on massive thick books which the poor meter readers had to carry when visiting households to update the latest readings. We had to very frequently refer to this meter books while dealing with related complaints. However all these readings were also uploaded in a central database and could be accessed via intranet.


Late 1990s - in an IT company.
  1. Emails, internet, intranet - everything was already operational
  2. Lot less paperworks
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