My entire adult life has been spent working in offices and the one thing I can say with all certainty is that as we passed through the decades, the upgrades in technology have been nothing short of mind-boggling.
My first office job was in the typing pool at the headquarters of a national insurance company. It was an exciting time for me because I was promoted to that position after 30 back-breaking days in the filing department. Not only would I not have to spend my days standing up and filing, I would be able to sit down and my salary was bumped from $60 to $80 a week.
In that pool, I typed homeowner policies all day. Each policy required several copies, created with an original document along with several pages of carbon paper and onion-skin paper, which was just slightly thicker than toilet paper, on a manual typewriter.
Mistakes were corrected with a pencil-like devices (that can probably now be found in collectible shops) that had an eraser on one end, and a brush at the other end to whisk the eraser shavings away. Correcting the original document and the many copies behind it was a nightmare. Each copy had to be corrected without smudging the others by slipping a piece of scrap paper between the carbon and the onion skin, a very time-consuming task when up to 10 copies were involved. Typos, needless to say, were avoided at all costs.
A couple of years later, when correction tape (little strips of shiny white paper with a chalky substance on one side) arrived in the office supply market, it was a dream come true. Nothing could top this new and improved method of correcting typos. But then, Liquid Paper came along, followed by a rainbow of pastel colors. Could it get any better than this?
I spent about a year in that typing pool before being promoted again, this time to a secretarial position. By this time, we had electric typewriters. That was terrific, but when I received my first IBM Selectric II with the correcting key (back space and wipe out all sins), I new that modern technology had truly arrived.
Wrong again – the photocopier came along. Not only could I wipe out typos with one stroke on my Selectric II, carbon and onion skin paper became a thing of the past because I could now take my clean, original and duplicate it by the hundreds if needed.
The insurance company always had a computer. It was not a personal computer, but a monstrous machine located in a freezing cold, glassed-in room of its own. It was operated by a man that most of my coworkers thought of as “odd” to be nice, and the IBM monster produced invoices throughout the day and night. But no one went near it and no one entered that room unless it was an emergency.
There also was a lot of running around going on in those days. You could not call someone in another department because there was no internal phone system with extensions or an intercom. You had to get up and go there – physically.
The U.S. Postal Service was the most common way to move documents and information from one place to another. There was no Internet, email or instant messaging, and there were no fax machines, pagers, cell phones, PCs – and most importantly – there was no microwave in the lunchroom.
Some years later, I will never forget when a coworker came to me, all excited because she was learning about something called the World Wide Web. She began to explain and I thought, “What in the world?” What in the world indeed!
I’m taking this walk down memory lane because on May 8, voters in the Fenton Area Public Schools District, are going to be asked to pass a $9.6 million bond. I know, I know, as a Fenton taxpayer I don’t like it much either, especially since there are parts of that bond I’m not quite sold on yet.
What I am sure of, however, is the need for periodic technology upgrades in our schools. I plan to be a senior citizen some day and when I am, I want the people in charge of my care and comfort to be on top of their game. I want the employees that work at the bank where I keep all of my money completely up to date on the latest technology. I also plan to travel and want my airline pilot to have the latest and greatest education when it comes to technology. And last, but not least, in the event I become ill or need surgery during my advanced years, I want my physicians and nurses to know what they’re doing. Get the picture?
For my family, passing the new bond will only mean an extra $50 on our summer tax bill. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth the cost of one nice dinner out to make sure these kids today know how to take care of us in the future.
(And one more thing ... April 22-28 is Administrative Professionals Week. Do something nice for your office support staff. Who knows, in 40 years someone might wonder in awe how they could possibly work under the archaic conditions they did in 2012.)