19th March 2022

I have just finished a tedious exchange of emails with one of my pension companies. The monthly stipend originates from a ten-year period of service I undertook with a then large, now ginormous banking conglomerate from 1979 through 1989. Thinking back nothing illustrates the amazing advances in technology than my memories of that period and knowledge of circumstances now.

Computers were a major presence in any financial institution, not just in their use and necessity, but quite literally in their size and need for special care and attention. The wonderous machines themselves were situated in airconditioned and air tight rooms, for dust and heat caused inordinate problems with their mechanicals workings. For they were in reality, but large enclosures of clockwork intermixed with what appeared to be ham radio components. The future days of neat motherboards and minuscule components was still but a glint in Microsoft and Apples. The mark to be honored then was IBM, the absolute pinnacle of such miraculous and mysterious apparatus.

If you were of sufficient ranking you would have delivered to your desk, by a mail courier, a working copy, printed on twelve by fifteen-inch fanfold paper from memory, and this was the form that all accounting commenced from. No screens, or electric calculators, perhaps a mechanical adding machine if you were lucky.  Mental and written arithmetic were vital components in any employment involving figure work. Having completed your computations the amended copy would be taken to a machine room, were a machinist would re-enter the changed information. Each part of the process, copy production, couriering, amending. correcting, machining, was actioned by a different individual. Five bodies to complete what can now be accomplished with one key stroke on a desk or laptop by a solitary person.

Offices then were noisier, not from keyboards or printers, but from voices. For we talked constantly, laughed, gossiped, had fun, built teams. Communication and cooperation were most necessary tools, fundamental if anything useful was ever to be accomplished.

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