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Old 04-06-2015, 09:48 AM   #81
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While in school in the late 70's I worked at a big defense contractor. There was a large bullpen with heavy metal desks and short walls. I recall the scattered dumb terminals attached to a mainframe, for parts lists and stuff. There was a mix of older and younger engineers, and I enjoyed working with them. It seemed too many were just pushing papers around, filling out forms, etc. Several had nothing to do and played chess all day for several months, waiting for a government contract. There was one large photocopier with several operators, who would regularly draw tall curtains around the copier, so they could copy classified documents. One day there was a commotion and several EMT's ran down the aisle with a stretcher. An older engineer had keeled over at his desk. At that time I vowed I would not die like that. This forum has been very helpful in avoiding that.

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Old 04-06-2015, 10:02 AM   #82
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I started in the late 70s in oil and gas exploration, Tech work on collecting information on drilling activity and other geological first looks and testing. Learned how to type reports and setup "blue line" graphics. Used pen and ink mechanical drawings on velum paper, copied them to a sheet of yellow photosensitive paper, then submitted the yellow line paper to ammonia vapors to develop the blue line copy. Next used a "telecopier" to transmit blue line to a receiver that redrew the copy for the home office. Used a regular telephone to call the office, the office person (secretary or whomever) would connect their phone line to the telecopier device and the ink pen would redraw the original. It was all spinning cylinders of paper on each end. Was quick too. This all before there were any telephone computer connections.

Graduated in late 80s in electrical engr. Started seeing the automation of industrial production in pulp and paper industry, steel, carpet, pharmaceutical, petro chemical, agricultural storage and shipping, power generation, raw material storage and transportation even mining. The computer (IT) jobs I worked on were across the industrial production and processing industries. Got to see and work in many different environments.

Early environments were located in basements, closets, electrical supply rooms, warehouses, etc.. I did not really see quality control rooms till real early 90s.

My "office" was really the spare parts room. Lots of part cabinets and shelves. Tools everywhere, punch cards, "bootstrap" paper tapes. I remember being impressed with magnetic core memory.

You could smoke almost anywhere inside. Since I was rarely needed or wanted in the main office, I could wear a shirt without a tie, even bluejeans if I was scheduled for maintenance tasks.

Worked a pager system owned by the company. Always on call 24\7, even vacations. You were the computer "doctor" and if it hiccupped, you were called.

I remember the time when computers were unguarded, even the plant facilities. I would get a call at 2 am to check something out, would drive over and park my car walk past a guard shack without so much as a wave to the persons inside, open and close gates, doors and so on until I was in the "computer room". Then get started with the error codes or messages. No logons etc.

What a different world it was back then.

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Old 04-06-2015, 11:17 AM   #83
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Originally Posted by dvalley View Post
I guess part of the reason I'm wondering these things is what could I do if I were to switch careers from my high stress 24x7 IT management position to something else that allows me to leave work at work after 5pm and on the weekends. I guess I'm just feeling nostalgic and imagining a simpler life of the yester years.
I started working in IT in the late 60's - in the early years the job was interesting, challenging, creative, etc. Over the years the job changed and became mind numbing and very stressful... but with golden handcuffs. In an effort to counter balance all of the associated BS, and to appease my alter ego, I got involved in public safety. For 20+ years I worked as a part time Firefighter/Medic and loved every day of it. It saved my sanity. (A statement often debated)
"We grow neither better or worse as we get older, but we become more like ourselves."
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Old 04-06-2015, 11:48 AM   #84
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Great thread. Joined big blue (IBM) in 1983. Shared a large 3270 terminal with my office mate. Even though I was a developer, still had to wear a tie to work (no jacket!). Casual days were Saturdays when we had to occasionally work. After a couple of years upgraded to a PC on everyone's desk, but still used a 3270 emulation card. I worked on the team that did the 3270 emulation program, so essentially I was writing PC assembler code. Fun times.

Phones - no voicemail, but some of us installed rogue answering machines.

Printouts were sent to the mainframe printer, and picked up about 200 yards away.
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Old 04-06-2015, 12:35 PM   #85
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As an engineer I always had computers that I worked with - but they were CPM and DOS machines. No network. I wrote embedded software so I always had some kind of computer - but we'd burn a PROM to test the code.

My first job (early 80's) had a KayPro cpm "portable" computer - about the size of a desktop PC box now - but it had a handle and the keyboard came off the front to expose a little CRT screen. We didn't have a network - so to use a printer - you'd roll the shared dot matrix printer to your work area and use the old LPT1 parallel printer cord. If someone else needed to print something, they'd disconnect it from your computer, and roll it to their area and hook it to their computer.

My desk tended to be overflow from my work bench - circuit boards on standoffs with wire and/or ribbon cables to the peripherals. Not a lot of paper... just bits of hardware.

My sister, on the other hand, was on the business side of the same company. Lots of folders with contracts - marked up by hand and given back to the secretary to make the changes. Paper gant charts on the walls.
Retired June 2014. No longer an enginerd - now I'm just a nerd.
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Old 04-06-2015, 05:24 PM   #86
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When desktops first came out our CEO and COO both recoiled and completely refused to have a keyboard on their desk! "That's for secretaries"
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Old 04-06-2015, 05:52 PM   #87
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Originally Posted by marko View Post
When desktops first came out our CEO and COO both recoiled and completely refused to have a keyboard on their desk! "That's for secretaries"
Smart guys, that's why they got the big $ .

The" common thread" in this thread seems to be the rise of automation in the office , and the demise of smoking in the workplace
“The finance industry is 5% rational people and 95% shamans and faith healers.” - Charlie Munger
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Old 04-06-2015, 05:54 PM   #88
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First academic job as a Ph.D. student--handouts were all done on ditto machines with that awful purple dye all over your hands.
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Old 04-06-2015, 06:19 PM   #89
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One thing about working in that period was navigating the change from no computers to the computer age. It was not always easy, and caused both organizational and individual trauma. Many people hated the computers. Three Examples.

In 1980, the only computer in my office was connected to the McDonald Douglas mainframe, and was used by the Assistant Metallurgist to determine if a mining property was feasible. One day he totally erupted and stormed out of the office and begain berating a backhoe operator outside. Turns out the backhoe had cut the phone cable, and all of the work that the Metallurgist had done that day was gone.

Later in another organization, circa 1989, management had sprung for what seemed like a zillion dollars of Data General workstations. about 5 years later, when they were starting to become obsolete, and Microsoft was starting to take over, IT went to management to replace the Data Generals. Management was shocked! (they were the tail end of the 'Mad Men' culture). They had expected the Data Generals to last like more traditional manufacturing equipment, and had set the depreciation schedule accordingly. They had no idea how fast things would continue changing, as per Moore's Law.

Example 3 is in the late 1990's, I was responsible for training people who had been manually making maps to learn to make them digitally. At the time I boasted that anyone could learn to use a computer. To my chagrin, I was proved wrong. Several of the mapmakers were 'artiste' types, and had no chance of learning digital mapping.
"The natural inclination of every boat everywhere is to sink".......Nicole Pasulka
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Old 04-06-2015, 07:39 PM   #90
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Originally Posted by harley View Post
When I first got into IT it was transitioning from punch cards to dumb terminals connected to a mainframe. I remember writing all my code on paper, then waiting in line at the terminal bullpen for an open spot. My desk was covered with punch card decks (rubber banded together), flowchart templates, and coding paper, with stacks of printouts underneath. Pretty ugly, and probably a fire hazard.
AND folks were allowed to smoke at their desks - definitely a fire hazard!

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Old 04-06-2015, 11:41 PM   #91
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I remember when smoking was allowed in hospitals, at least in offices and waiting rooms, and in patient rooms where no oxygen was in use. Looking back, seems so insane! And there was one physician that I worked with in the 1980s who was a heavy smoker. At this point, there was an IBM 486 in every office. His computer was the only one that kept crashing. We all knew it was the cigarette ash.
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Old 04-07-2015, 03:52 AM   #92
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My first desk as a second lieutenant was a leftover WWII desk with a rotary phone, a stapler and an adding machine from use in managing the squadron budget. Busy signals on the phone were the norm, so much time was wasted trying to get in touch with people. We didn't have computers, but received dot matrix printouts of expenditures on a daily basis, which we used to make our slides for the overhead projectors. Letters were typed by clerks and secretaries if they had the time. Our building was an old morgue on a RAF base near the North Sea.

In the cockpit of our C-130s smoking was still allowed unless we were refueling or doing ground operations. The flight computer was a mechanical system we had to manually dial in course and distance settings that our Doppler radar would date in flight. Not nearly as accurate as the GPS systems of today. Sextants were still used for over water navigation along with LORAN and Omega systems which helped, but not much. The radar was the same system my father had helped develop in the 1950s.
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Old 04-07-2015, 06:17 AM   #93
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Interesting reading. It reminded me of the norms of office support for engineering organizations has changed.

I entered my career where one secretary per 10 people was the norm, and I'm exiting my career where one administrator per 100 is now the norm.

Oh yeah, and that job title changed.

And, I helped create the machines to kill those jobs.
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Old 04-07-2015, 07:01 AM   #94
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I graduated college in 1979 and started my first position with Mega Corp in Jan. 1980. ( I had a brief stint with JC Penney )
I was in sales and we would record our calls by filling in ovals on ICR's, individual call recorders, and mailing them every night to our data center in Richmond.
I worked remotely and if the boss wanted to get a hold of you they would leave a message on your home answering machine or with the wholesaler we would pick up car stock from.
When we started having weekly conference calls they had to send us a small box that would replicate touch tones so we could use the rotary dial pay phones that were common in rural areas.
When we finally got computers, Apples, we probably turned over a third of the sales force who couldn't handle the change. ( I used to love the little bomb that would appear on the screen to let you know the computer was shot.)
The beginning of the end was when we got pagers. The manager that you could hide from for weeks could suddenly get a hold of you at a minutes notice.
Work hours were 8:30 - 5:15 and we always wore a suit and tie. ( The requirement to wear a hat ended about 7 years before I started.)
By the time I retired, 3 years ago, business casual was the norm, everyone had a cell phone and laptops where being replaced by ipads.
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Old 04-07-2015, 08:43 AM   #95
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I too started working in the mid 80s and it was the beginning of what I think of as the real transition to personal computing in the workforce. In fact, I can remember when the first PC came into our large office pool and as the young college kid was immediately thrown at the PC and asked to figure it out. Never mind I was a chemistry major. The secretary pool looked at that machine as the devil incarnate and there was no way no how they were going to give up their slick Selectric 3 typewriters for that neon green glowing screen. The boss man wanted to know how to use the PC so I taught him how to do a simple spreadsheet and print it out. Of course, building a simple spreadsheet back then meant you had to know all the keystokes to do so -- there were no user friendly icons or tabs to show you the way. I wrote up a six page handwritten cheat sheet of computer commands for him (and myself) and eventually he got the hang of things.

I also would write long technical proposals in those early years. The word processing was pretty limited so most was generated on the typewriters and some math symbols hand-drawn. To get around retyping during time crunches, I remember cutting (with a pair of scissors) and pasting (with Scotch tape) paragraphs onto paper and xeroxing them.

In general things were much slower. Producing reports, record keeping, etc. took more people and more time. Snail mail (and then later faxing) were the primary communication methods.

I once remember needing to get a technical proposal out and having to take my first laptop home. Ha! This thing weighed so much I had to have my husband bring it in from the trunk of my car. It looked like this:

As for what jobs there were, I think they were similar to today -- but we just need fewer of the same types of people to get the job done. As an example, 20 years ago a chemistry lab or chemical production site would have far more staff than you see today. Automation has greatly reduced labor needs. I was talking with a gentleman that worked at a water treatment facility for many years and he basically said that chemical treatment and water monitoring is all automated, so most of the jobs that used to involve manually monitoring water and adding chemicals, etc are gone.
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Old 04-07-2015, 09:36 AM   #96
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In 1978 I joined a company that write insurance only outside of the US- not AIG, although they were considered a competitor of AIG till they were brought down by crappy business written in the London market.

They'd just moved HQ from NYC to a NJ suburb and I worked at HQ. There was a splendid front entrance. Peons were not permitted to use it. There was a majestic circular staircase between the first and second floor in the lobby. Peons were not to use it. We used the windowless back staircase located conveniently near the rear entrance we were to use. Only the President and the guy who ran the mailroom had offices and only the executives had phones. (I was 3 years out of college and didn't get one for a couple of years.) There was no copy machine on the floor. You wanted it copied, you sent it to the mailroom. The President got a copy of every Telex (predecessor to fax) that was sent out.

Really amazing now when I think of all the lost productivity.
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Old 04-07-2015, 10:52 AM   #97
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Originally Posted by marko View Post
When desktops first came out our CEO and COO both recoiled and completely refused to have a keyboard on their desk! "That's for secretaries"
I still see that attitude. Plus the attitude that if you let an engineer touch a Word document he'll screw it up; only the secretary knows how to format it properly. The truth around here is that the engineers have figured out how to do it properly, and since the secretaries are paid as little as management can get away with, they tend to be the ones who screw it up.
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Old 04-07-2015, 11:15 AM   #98
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A few quick stories:

I knew of one company that had taken over a building that had an indoor swimming pool in an atrium in the middle and the offices overlooked the pool. The secretaries (aka admins) would put on bikinis (and strongly encouraged to do so) and go to the pool at lunch way to keep the guys in the office, I guess!

One big company (IBM maybe?), when you started you got X square feet of office. Each promotion and you go a few more sq ft...sometimes only a few more inches, then another promotion got you a better chair, then a better phone, then a better coat rack, then a phone with more buttons... on and on.

During our early days of our company, we had a "no married couples working" rule. One day, a secretary (sorry, admin) married one of our engineers and her boss came to her and said: "so, when is your last day?" She said: "oh, I"m not leaving, my husband is going to have to leave...he can get a job anywhere". That was the last day of that policy!!

And, of course, there were the days of admins who proudly paraded around in hot pants....ah, yes.....

We had a really arrogant guy (picture Ted Knight) who would dump 20 pages of typing onto his admin; usually around 4:55 on a Friday. I told him it wasn't fair. He said: "Well, tell her to just run it through the word processor and go home" clue.
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Old 04-07-2015, 11:18 AM   #99
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Anyone remember when salespeople (err...salesmen) spent a few hours in bars each day to make phone a pay phone?

Sorry kids, no cell phones back then.
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Retired @ 52 in 2005
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Old 04-07-2015, 11:23 AM   #100
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Circa 1975: While a Co-op student in Boston, I worked for a company doing flood studies. Data was keypunched on cards. I would take a briefcase full over to MIT by subway, have them read and scan for errors, and then return 1-2 days later to retrieve the printed output.

Circa 1979: Working as a field test engineer. Used an Exxon Qwip (first commercial fax machine using telephones) to send reports to the office in New Jersey. Each page was individually loaded on a drum. 4-6 minutes per page! And you had to have someone on the other end doing the same thing with the receiving paper.

Circa 1985: Company moved from electric typewriters to word processors (for Secretaries only, engineers still used pencil and paper). One storage drive for two work stations, with a whopping 15 MB of storage! Cost was something like $50,000. About a year later we needed to upgrade to 30MB storage. Technician came out, opened the unit, flipped a few switches. The unit already had a 30MB disk, but you needed to pay another $10,000 to have them set it up.

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