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

What do YOU think the business world will be like in 30 years? In 1968 I was a secretary in
Opinion

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!)

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