I remember being a secretary: How jobs have changed over the years 60



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What do YOU think the business world will be like in 30 years?

In 1968 I was a secretary in a London law firm and I used a manual typewriter. A few years later I progressed to an electric typewriter, then word processor, and by the early 80s we were using computers – Wordstar, VisiCalc, etc..!  (By which time I formed my own company selling computers). So in less than 15 years, the method of typing a document changed dramatically.

A few weeks ago I was visiting a museum in Stanthorpe (which is brilliant and well worth the entrance fee), and became intrigued by a magazine on display. It was dated 1968, and there was an article in it which was written by John Wren-Lewis, a senior scientist at that time. The introduction was:

“Will the secretary of the year A.D. 2000 land on the roof of her skyscraper office off her helicopter, or arrive by moving pavement? Will she even go to an office or will she sit at home and be in touch with her boss and his business contacts by remote controlled television links to places all over the world? Will the secretary be a robot, with electronic eyes and tape recorder instead of a shorthand pad?”

He continued by saying that he felt greater mechanisation in all walks of life, will mean that we will need MORE human interaction and personal service, and that secretaries will always be needed as who can anticipate what times the boss would prefer certain appointments, who can make adequate excuses for him when necessary, and know his little whims and how he runs his business or department. (It was always him, the boss, and her, the secretary).

He believed that machines would be used more in education, but this would only HELP teachers, and they would still need to be present to give the human services so needed in education. In those days it was predicted that the “Age of Leisure” was not far off, and that didn’t mean we’d all sit about; rather, we would need secretaries to work and understand the machines we would use in our creative pursuits, be it music, art, or physical activities.  

His own secretary said she looked forward to the day she would have some sort of homing device that would track where he was! And a tiny portable walkie-talkie to talk to him when he’s on the train to Manchester. He said he would still need someone to know when to say the device wasn’t working!

So, I wondered how many of his thoughts came true by the year 2000, or whether they took longer. Was he dreaming when he talked about an Age of Leisure? All I see is more people working even harder, and longer hours. The majority of what he predicted has, in the past two decades, come to reality. Has it been a good thing?

…….and what will office and business life be like in, say, 2050? What gadgetry and inventions will future generations enjoy?  (And is “enjoy” the right word?).

(Oh and by the way, I used my iPad to photograph the relevant pages. I wonder what he would have thought of that!)

Tell us your thoughts below.

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Dee Bond

  1. We were just talking about this yesterday with my son, daughter in- law, & granddaughter, my first casual job was sweeping up hair, washing towels & folding them in a hairdressing salon for 2 pound, my first full time job was office girl / receptionist at Brett’s in Brisbane earning 13 dollars a week

  2. I worked in a bank for 7 years,left when i was pregnant with my first child then went back some years Iater and worked for 20 years. Now retired.

  3. in 50 years?, heaven only knows, our computers will probably be implants under the skin and our screen will be our eyes, I can imagine even offices will be a thing of the past, all business and communication will be done online or the next level of Human achievement..whatever that may be

    1 REPLY
    • d have been in the early seventies I went to this office to fix a type writer and was confronted by a huge box the first word processor,the lady had put a lable on it the machine was named” FRED” an acronym F%&%$# Ridiculous Electronic Device

  4. I can remember starting off with a manual typewriter then an electric and we nearly died the day the boss introduced us to our first computer I can still remember looking at it in pure silence, it is so funny now bug not then we were terrified

  5. I became a secretary in the 60’s after completing a 12 month full time day secretarial course. We used manual typewriters, did Pitman’s shorthand and like Vivienne, had to do further courses when computers were invented for the workforce. Whenever you changed jobs you had to familiarise yourself with a new software package or two!!! And let’s not forget the manual switchboards!!!! Memories…..

    3 REPLY
    • Oh yes, and those hot pants and mini skirts, I can still hear my father saying “bend at the knees”!!!!!

    • Margaret Ross , I also am a Margaret , I was Margaret Ross before I married 47 yrs ago. I also remember the hot pants and mini dresses. My first job was in a pharmacy, Cyclax, Dorothy Grey, Innoxa, Max Factor etc…just saying..have a great day 👍🏼👍🏼

    • Margaret Kane fancy that!!! I remember those brands you refer to in the pharmacy and I still use Innoxa!

  6. I was a 19, a library assistant in a tech college library. There were no computers, everything was done manually, including all the lending and return of books and journals, overdue notices, etc. The catalogue was on cards in a big cabinet of drawers and the photocopy machines were Xerox, nearly the size of small cars.

  7. My first part-time job was at Woollies, my first full-time job was at Australian Fixed Trust as a office junior. Good training for further jobs used teleprinters, manual typewriters, for-digraph machines, reception work and anything they gave me to do, loved it stayed four years before moving to Sydney and big wide world, for two years then came back home to another awesome job in travel. Best thing about my first job met my best friend and we still are after 49 years.

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