My work journey from typewriters to smartphones


As part of the workshop session I led yesterday the client suggested we begin with an ice breaker where everyone had to introduce themselves and say something about what they had seen recently on social media.

I found myself talking about how in the early eighties, when I first started work as a journalist that it was before personal computers were invented, never mind the internet, smart phones and social media.

I used to work in a little town centre office above shops knocking out copy on an old fashioned typewriter. There were photocopiers then but they couldn’t afford one so we used carbon copy paper and had to start our articles again if we made any significant typos.

This hard copy was then sub-edited by hand using the various proofing symbols rarely seen today.  The editor then collated all the content – copy and photos –  for a particular page and drew up a layout, also by hand, specifying typesizes of headlines, column widths of stories, how photos should be cropped etc. 

With this all completed everything went across to the pre-press department who typeset the pages and, from recollection, as this will have been just after the days of hot metal, scan in the photos to create the film that would eventually be used to print the newspapers.

It was some years later when I first discovered the joys of word processing all the mistakes you can now could happily make with them on a large desktop computers with the dark green screens.  

A few years later I was granted what was laughably called a portable computer which was about as big and heavy as a 20 kilo suitcase. It had a keyboard which unclipped from one side to reveal a relatively small screen with a slots for the 5.25 inch floppy disks which could hold the massive capacity of 360kb!

Brick-like mobile phones

Not long after this I was once allowed out with the office’s first mobile phone which was literally the size of a brick and about as heavy.  The organisation I worked for had just one phone that was used by whoever who could argue they had the most important external meeting to go to. 

I remember being told that you could use it just like a normal phone but you had to put the area code in wherever you were as you do today.

You could only use them, of course,  to make phone calls which, even so, was amazing!   I remember some years later when I had my own Nokia cellphone wondering what would be the point of texting when it first came in.  

Widespread use of the internet had only just started then and I can well remember the old dial-up connections and its familiar tone as it connected and then disconnected on a regular basis.

I now happily use my phone for what seems like pretty much everything, social media, updating websites, buying and selling, reading newspapers, monitoring my health and activity, keeping an eye on my finances, navigating, taking photos, listening to music and just occasionally making a phone call.

It’s extraordinary the transformation that has been taking place before my eyes and how adaptable I’ve been.  I remember, when I was in my teens, looking back on all that had changed in previous decades largely to do with transport – widespread use of planes, trains and automobiles – and thinking there would be nothing as transformational in my lifetime.

How wrong I was and how extraordinarily well us humans adapt to change.  

Published by brianjonesdiary

Dad, husband, brother and son. Interested in travel, politics, sport, health and much more. Semi-retired and aiming to making the most of life as I approach my sixth decade.

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