Let’s talk online, techie, and the olden days this week?

The Internet, new technologies and all that stuff can be quite bewildering, polarising and just occasionally, downright new, for all its good points can’t it? I’m from a generation that used to write, post letters, and receive mail. Why, we even had a postman on a bike, who delivered letters every day to every house in the town. The local ‘postie’ knew who wasn’t paying their bills, where prodigal sons had gone off travelling, and where daughters who had to leave town quickly had gone. They were the font of all knowledge.
As strange as it may seem, the local telephone exchange operators were also pretty well informed as, in my day, all the phones were on ‘party’ lines which would have a number of households on the same line but with different rings. For example, ours was two short rings. And to ring out, one first had to check that there wasn’t someone already on the line. Of course, there were spats between neighbours as some would talk half the day. But the toll operators, although officially only able to listen to confirm a line was in use, would often linger longer, and pick up some salacious gossip.
Something extremely rare in those days, were tape recorders. If they were around, they were as big as a suitcase, not at all convenient. For transcription of meeting notes a form of notetaking called ‘shorthand’ was taught in schools, and it was a series of dots, dashes, squiggles, and symbols, otherwise known as stenography. It was a compulsory school subject for girls, and was measured, as I recall, by words-per-minute, with some girls able to record astounding accuracy and rates of dictation, around 70-100 words per minute. The system at that time was devised by Sir Isaac Pitman and standard throughout the entire English-speaking world.
Typewriters were something of a nightmare. Typing was a taught skill at school as well and was also subject to words-per-minute testing. In fact, typing at schools was taught as ‘touch-typing,’ and pupil’s hands were covered so they couldn’t see the keyboard, but had to ‘feel’ their way with allocated keys to each finger. They would achieve typical speeds of 60-80 words per minute. Typing errors were remarkably unforgiving, as while ‘tipex’ could sometimes be used to cover errors, it did not leave a good ‘look.’ Copies too were a challenge, as the blue ‘carbon’ paper between sheets of paper tended to be messy and tended to leave typists with stubborn blue shading on their thumbs and forefingers.
One was useless at it! One became, and has continued as a typically obstinate male, with two digits typing (and the occasional thumb or little finger), now firmly established in one’s repertoire of skills. Nobody had mobiles in those days either, and to get a message to another required often that a verbal message was passed from one to another, to another, to another, in the manner of ‘Chinese whispers’ with much miscommunication and confusion. Maybe like this one… passed by word of mouth:
CEO to Manager: “At 2 pm there will be an eclipse. Make sure the staff are all in the carpark to see it. I will explain how it happens.” Manager to Departments: “At 2 pm all staff should meet in the carpark for an eclipse which the CEO will explain.”
Departments to Supervisors: “The CEO will make the Sun disappear after a short speech at 2 pm today in the carpark. All staff to be present.”
Supervisors to Team leaders: “The CEO will disappear today at 2 pm in the carpark with all staff to be present.”
Team Leaders to staff: “The CEO will be in the carpark at 2 pm to give the staff presents before he disappears.”
Oh… I’ve run out of space to talk techie. In the inimitable words of Battery Sergeant Major Williams, played by Windsor Davies, in the hugely popular, ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.’ “Oh dear… What a shame… Never mind!”