For The Times They Are Changing

Old Type WriterI have worked in offices for quite a number of years, starting in the 1960's! I have seen quite a number of changes over the years, particularly with machinery.... now this will really show my age!




Stencil Machine
Telex Machine
Hand Delivery or Royal Mail Post


Computer/Word Processor
Fax Machine
Email/ DX Post/Box Number Post, Royal Mail Post and if
Urgent Hand Delivery

When I started working in an office, as an office junior, the tasks were so different as to what is expected of a junior these days. Of course the coffee/tea making was one of the most important jobs anyone had to do! I also had to go out and get everyones lunch and wash the pots after lunch. In between duties there would be hand delivery post, we didn't have anything like the DX system or internal box numbers, all local post had to be hand delivered which could take the best part of the morning.

Over lunch I had to cover the switchboard, which was a big ugly thing unlike the systems used now. During the afternoon I would have to use the stencil then a lot of the younger ones will wonder what on earth I am talking about here! We didn't have photocopying machines, we had to use stencils and a machine called a gestetner...anyone remember those? Quite often the stencils would be covered in white blobs where the typist had made mistakes and had to re-type over their mistake, otherwise the whole thing would have to be typed from the beginning. This stencil would be placed on the machine and then you had to stand there turning the handle manually until all the copies required were printed.

This leads me on to other machinery in the office work place.....we didn't have fax machines, what we had was a telex machine (although not all companies had one, so obviously telex messages could not be sent in this manner), this machine was like a massive 'computer' where you sat at it, a bit like a typewriter on a desk. As with a fax machine, you would have to dial the number on the telex and wait for the connection, then you could start typing your message. The message had to be typed in short (to save money, as telex messages were expensive to send) i.e. just like using text on a mobile phone these days.

Once you had typed your message it would print onto paper both for your own company and to the recipient, which could then be kept on file. We had to use a manual typewriter and for copies we used carbon paper between our sheets of paper so that we had a copy of the letter or document for the file. It is far easier these days using a computer especially when preparing a large document because, as you know, the work can be saved as you go along, and of course can be edited and amended at any time. And now more and more firms are going paperless therefore not requiring paper files.

Delivery of correspondence is much the same, urgent letters can still be hand delivered and of course sent by Royal Mail. We do have the added bonus these days of being able to send correspondence by internal box mail or the DX System which is a boon when sending large documentation.

Finally, we come to the email system which as anyone knows is taking over from a lot of 'posted' correspondence. The only drawback to that is if you have a boss like mine who does not have a computer then letters, documents, etc. still have to be printed off which defeats the object of going paperless!

Just one more word, we can also open files on the computer depending upon which system is being used by the company; although I find this a good thing and quicker to get a computer number rather than via the Cashiers Department, I still like to keep an old system of manual card indexing as a back up should the computers go down. This does happen, all well and good these new machines, but the old style of keeping records is a must as when the system has gone down, I still have all my records available...old and new can work hand in hand!

Lynda Ross AILS, Associate Member