Since Series 90: how our lives have changed

I just browsed through the Series 90 college version of the “speed building” text, published in 1979.  At that time our state university (the University of Missouri) still offered shorthand classes (hard to believe!) and I remember buying the set of books new in the university bookstore.
Two things are striking about the photos in the book (other than hair styles and clothing):  the first is that the “typical” desk had a telephone, typewriter, and paper on it.  Total absence of computers.  What a different environment . . . and how in the heck did people exist without the internet and software applications?
The other striking thing is how often there are ash trays on tables and desks, and how frequently people are shown smoking.  Again, a huge cultural shift.  We live in a different world today.

(by alex for everyone)

12 comments Add yours
  1. Wow, Alex.  Memories…   Indeed, the world has changed a LOT.  I can remember (unhappily!) working in offices where people smoked back in the late 70's and early 80's.  My desk probably looked a lot like the desks in your book as well.  I worked with good old IBM selectrics.  I also used an IBM Mag Card "A" typewriter, an IBM memory typewriter and a Xerox memory typewriter.  The memory typewriters didn't store very much–maybe 10 or 15 business letters.   I can remember being truly thrilled the first time I used an IBM typewriter with a liftoff correction button.   I remember non-touchtone phones with large, light-up buttons for the different extensions I answered.  It seems like transferring calls was a matter of pushing down the receiver button a couple of times or dialing some combination of numbers.   The first computer I worked on was an Apple 2e.  When I interviewed for that particular job, the interviewer asked me if I was afraid of computers.    Of course, now, I would be lost without my PC.  I have my old high-school graduation typewriter, a manual one, here in the office for typing envelopes and air waybills.  I can still purchase cloth ribbons for it but may someday need to adapt adding-machine ribbons.

  2. I was in high school when the typing labs replaced the manual typewriters with new IBM selectrics.  I still remember the look and feel of the new machines, even the smell.  It's funny to think that those were the "high tech" marvels at that time.   I just browsed through the Gregg Centennial "Dictation and Transcription" text, published in 1990.  It's interesting that computers and stand-alone word processors had started to appear by then.  Several photos feature them–very strange looking models by current standards!  I wonder what exactly an office computer could do in 1990, and what programs it could run.  This text still promotes the idea that if you learn shorthand, you will be more desirable in the job market . . . statements like "Shorthand is a skill that adds to your marketability."  That probably already wasn't true by 1990.   There's also a picture with the caption "To work in today's office, secretaries need to know how to use printers with tractors that guide continuous-form paper."  Ah, yes . . . .   Alex

  3. Luckily, there are still some firms that allow smoking in their office.  I'm an old school die hard like that, and appreciate how things were.  There is truly nothing like a smoke filled room.  I love the amber-tinted glass ashtrays and the brown hard plastic coffee cups that I still see in my shop  🙂

  4. I have the book "Gregg Shorthand for the Electronic Office, Short Course, Parts 1 and 2". This is a Series 90 book, beautifully written (by Mr. Edelman), with an appendix of word processing and computer terminology in shorthand. The pictures, though, are something else! At least, though, the material in the book was adapted to face the modern times, so to speak.

  5. I keep forgetting about the "electronic office" books–I think because their format is so different (top-bound, like typing textbooks) so they hide on a different shelf from my other shorthand books.  (That format, by the way, was used much earlier by South-Western for some of their shorthand books).    I personally think these "electronic office" books–there were 2, Part 1 and Part 2, are beautifully designed and produced–great combination of color, modern page layout, and variety.  The only thing I don't like about them is the "go through one direction, then turn the book over and go back the other direction" style . . . I much prefer a normally bound book.   I recently (like a month ago) found the "Instructor's Handbook and Key" for these books.  It's also quite nicely done, with detailed lesson plans, some history of Series 90, as well as the actual key material.   Alex

  6. I had a Series 90 book like that, too, where you first went through one side of the pages, then the others.  It has disappeared in my garage.   Office computers in 1990 were fairly primitive.  I think that was the year I got a computer with an actual hard  drive.  Before that we had dual floppy drives.  We booted the word processing program from one drive and recorded our documents using the other drive.  We made backup copies of all our document disks every Friday.   I remember my printer was an impact printer with a daisy wheel.  Wow…   When I finally got a computer with a hard drive in '90, it didn't have much storage, maybe 20 MB.  I had to transfer documents to floppies once every week or two to make room.   I remember in the mid-80's that our Legal Dept. secretaries had IBM Pagewriter word processers which were quite large.  I think they also had impact printers or giant-sized inkjets.

  7. Mom got a Burroughs RIII in 1982, or thereabouts, just like you described, for her home-based typing business. It took up the entire disk and cost the same as their first house.

    At the lessons, she was the slowest typist. Most of the people were professional secretaries. Once the lessons were over, though, she learned faster than any of them — she had to make the first payment within three weeks!

    Eventually, the manufacturer would call her when they needed help with complex tables. She did a lot of theses for the Ottawa and Carleton U. She used to charge 40c/daisywheel change. (That thing was right under my bedroom, and *loud*!) The mathies loved it — it was much, much better than the other methods!

    She got red pens with her name on them, and gave them to clients, complete with lessons on how to edit a page for the new technology. You do not put faint X's in the corner in pencil. You do not use a fine black marker to turn a period into a comma. You use a big red pen and make it hard to miss!

    She was the inaugural member of the 8-hour club — those who lost an entire day's work because they hadn't saved. Her price included keeping the file on disk for one year.

    I did my senior highschool essays on it. Very nice!

    She got a Mac in 1984 or so for a client, with a laser printer costing $5000.

    Burroughs tried to interest her in a multi-function computer around that time, even giving her a loaner. It lasted a few months since it was so hard to use.

    She shifted fully to the Mac around 1986, and finally Windows. She was ready to retire around the time all undergrads got easy access to good word processors, but she still does data entry for a client who does large surveys.

  8. Wow, Cricket, I forgot how expensive the early machinery was.  In contrast, my uncle just bought a Dell laptop for a whopping $300!   Looking at your e-mail made me remember that an office I worked in in 1981 had a "personal computer" from Radio Shack called the TRS-80.  Anyone remember that one?  The company president's secretary used it for mass mailings (she secretly hated the machine).  It had a pin-feed printer.  We affectionately called the computer the "Trash 80". 

  9. When I first hit the working world in the early 80's, the Mag Card IBM was the hot ticket.  There was another kind of IBM Selectric that had memory in it.  In my first job, my initial machine was a selectric that didn't correct.  Luckily, there was lift off correction strips.  I upgraded later to a couple of different machines that had phrase storage.    I got a job with the President's Office of the community college that I was going to and they installed the IBM DisplayWriter with a big daisy-wheel printer.  After I left the courts, I worked in the Word Process Department (which was still referred to as the Steno Pool by much of the company) and we had two stand-alone word processors called Amtext 400's.  They also installed PCs that had IBM Displaywrite on them.  Whene I started working with them, I realized it was the DisplayWriter on a PC.  Since I've moved to California and worked in the legal field, I've been using PCs with either WordPerfect or Word on them.    We really have come a long way.  These days we image all the work we do and all the documents we receive and post them on servers so that everyone has easy access to them without having to go to the paper file. 

  10. I remember Grandpa showing me some engineering calculations in 1981. He was really proud of himself for putting them in his card programmable. (And he should have been! The math was highly-interconnected, he was 70, and programmable calculators were cutting-edge.) When proof reading, the code "43" meant the 4th button in the 4rd row. He asked me if that could be done on a computer. Having just learned AppleSoft Basic I told him I couldn't, yet, but Dad definitely could.

    Now days, it would take 20 minutes to put the entire thing on Excel.

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