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Naomi Simson photos olden days past

I often have a good giggle with audiences when I’m presenting, about what it was like working “last century.” The funny thing is that in just a decade, many of the practices seem completely archaic. How did we cope? We had telephones that you would dial, and then wait after each number you dialed for the rotary piece to return to base. The sound was distinctive… dddd, dddd, dddd (very hard to replicate in writing). No speed dial, voice recognition, click to dial, automatic dial or any of the other things that now means that we are connected instantaneously. What patience we had (but it was all we had, we knew no difference, that was the pace of business then.)

I remember at the age of 22 seeing my first facsimile transmission — I was working for IBM at the time — and I thought that IBM had invented it. Before that we used to communicate via telex at best but mainly mail. Even for internal documents. They were called memos and had special envelopes where you would cross out the name and put a new person name in the dedicated boxes.

When I commenced working for Ansett Airlines, I requested a PC. My boss was curious to know why I needed such a thing in the late 1980s. I wanted a PC so I could be self-sufficient typing up the “fabulous” marketing plans I was going to write. My manager advised me that Ansett had a word processing department — all I had to do was pick up the phone, dial a certain extension, and dictate what I wanted. I would then have the typed document returned to my desk in the next day or two. I would make corrections, it would then go back and forth for a few days before it was finally finished, and you could send it. It took about 4-5 days to produce a piece of correspondence (even an internal memo). Younger audience members laugh — they can answer an email in seconds, anywhere, anytime on handheld devices.

So it does beg the question what will the world look like in just another 10 years. And how do we ensure we have the right talents and skills to go along with it? I have teenage children and I know that the jobs they are likely to have, have not been invented yet.

Back last century when I was in the final term of my university degree, my father said that he would like me to do a secretarial course… “just in case things don’t work out in my marketing career. You could always join the typing pool,” he said. So I dutifully went off in the term break from Uni to learn to touch type.

Whether my father’s reasoning was sound (something to fall back on) or not, learning to touch type at 90 words a minute has been one of my greatest productivity tools over the last 25 years. (So thanks, Dad)

So really the more exposure we have to more things, the better equipped we will be to exploit new technologies and ideas. (Can you believe in the year 2000, I said to myself I was too old to learn about the internet? ) We need to keep our minds wide open, and learn as much as we can along the way. The new technologies that we are embracing are not the destination, but are part of the journey… and I for one don’t want to miss out on any of the ride.

Notice that there is no PC on my desk in this picture — it was taken in 1988.

Last year I wrote about what I wish I had known when I was 22… take a look.

This article first appeared on LinkedIn as part of it’s Influencer program

Reader Interactions


  1. Lol. I’d like to say I have no idea what you’re talking about but have plenty of fond memories of this early tech boom.

    Now the question I have for you is what wisdom will you impart on your kids as your dad did for you?

    My advice is to get them to start blogging. Its a presence on the internet that only grows with time. And is ridiculously flexible especially if they need to market something later in life. Website age matters.

    We are all marketers, its just some people have something to sell.

    My 8 year has already made her first dollar on the internet and now is busy practicing her typing skills 🙂

    PS: I still have Ansett luggage. That stuff was made to last
    Pps: this could be a double post because not sure if I stuffed up the last one, sorry

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