Monday, July 16, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a long ago time, I was young.  And technology was young.  We were both in our infancy, technologically speaking.

In high school I took the "commercial" course to prepare me to be a secretary, which was all I'd ever wanted to be since I was old enough to hold a pencil and sit at a desk.  In my sophomore year I took typing.  The only typewriters in the room were manual.

In my junior year, I took shorthand and transcription.  By now, we had two IBM electric typewriters in the room for students to practice on.  For those of you who remember carbon paper, making a typing mistake meant having to use a typewriter eraser to correct the original, with a typing shield between the original and the carbon paper so as not to smudge the copy.  Then on to correct the copy.  Computers are such a boon to mankind that unless you lived through the era of carbon copies, you don't fully appreciate them.  In a law office, you cannot make a mistake on a will; there are to be no erasures whatsoever.  Consequently, typing a will with three carbon copies, was like telling someone on an exam table not to move--the more you're told you can't, the more you need to.  I wasted paper after paper after paper trying to get a will typed that was erasure free.

In my senior year, I continued with shorthand and transcription and added office machines class.  The calculator (only one to a room) took up an entire desk and had one hundred plus keys--each row having ten number keys (ten ones, ten twos, etc.) and there being ten rows.  It was a relic, but seemed modern at the time.  Never would I have thought that someday we'd be carrying a calculator in our pocket!

Also in the room was a Dictaphone.  This was truly a relic.  It featured a floor stand with a horizontal bar at the top on which was placed a cylinder.  The teacher would dictate on the cylinder during off hours, then we would take turns sitting at the Dictaphone, turn it on, and listen and transcribe as the needle worked its way across.  I said I was young, but then so was dirt!

I graduated and moved on to become a secretary.  One of my first jobs was with an attorney.  He had dictating equipment but nothing like what I learned on in school.  No, this was a small device on the desk that held a reel to reel cassette.  Still nothing like transcribing devices nowadays, but a far cry from the one in school.

In the basement of that office was a "copying machine."  By that, I mean we took our original, did something with it to make a copy (time has dimmed my memory), took the copy and placed it in a tub of some kind of solution to process it (having first checked the temperature of the solution), then placed the copy in a sort of neutralizer solution, then hung it up to dry!  Yes, this is what we went through to make one copy!  It wasn't much different than watching my boyfriend develop pictures in a dark room.  Come on, I was sixteen, ALL we did in that room was develop pictures.

When new machines came out advertised as being "dry" copiers, similar to what we all use today, it was probably one of the best technological advances of our time that few people appreciate unless they went through the wet copy process.  I remember when that law office got their first dry copier, the attorney and I stood there printing copy after copy, totally in awe at how we couldn't tell the copies from the original.

On a side note, in an office later in my career, I saw a woman go to the copy room, make ten copies of a document, then sit down and proof read every single copy, as though one copy would be different from another!

Technology has increased a hundred fold since those days in the fifties.  And thank goodness it has!  I may get upset if I have to wait a minute for the printer to warm up, but then I remember....


Today's Quote:  The best of times is now.  Oprah Winfrey

2 comments:

hazelcampbellbooks said...

Truly. I remember when someone abroad said to send him a fax. Nobody on the building knew what that was. After extensive inquiry, we were told that there was one fax machine on the island - in the Prime Minister's Office!

Linda Loegel said...

That's quite a story, Hazel. I remember sending a fax, back when, and being surprised that I was able to keep the original. It takes time to wrap our heads around a new concept. Heck, I'm still trying to understand radio, and how those air waves get turned on and off by the push of a button or the turn of a knob!