1970 to 2009: How Tools of the Trade Have Changed

In the NYTimes article, “When Publishing had Scents and Sounds,” Joni Evans explains what it was like to work in publishing and marketing in the 1970s, and its progression through time.

Joni Evans at work, 1983/image courtesy of NYTimes

In her day, the office included items like a typewriter, dictionary, hard copies of manuscripts, fountain pens, ink and blotters, and a phone ringing off the hook. These items, humorously dubbed ” office artifacts,” were once considered the essentials- and to think: most of us probably don’t remember the last time we answered a call on a landline!

No one uses dictionaries anymore, at least that’s what we can infer from the Wall Street Journal’s recent article, “Are Dictionaries Becoming Obsolete?”

Our tools of the trade are so much different today (not to mention consolidated): a cell phone and a computer with access to the internet is about all we need. And let’s be honest: these items are the teddy bears and blankies of our generation; we sleep with them by our side, and it would take the jaws of life to separate a journalist and his Macbook.

Can you imagine life without so much social media, or all-inclusive tools? A website called Social Media Unraveled compiled a list of 15 non-tech items for when Twitter’s “Fail Whale” brings you down.

Do you ever wish you had less access to so much information? Or secretly hope that the Fail Whale makes an appearance just to give you a break?


5 responses to “1970 to 2009: How Tools of the Trade Have Changed

  1. Enjoyed this article; thanks for flagging it! I was struck by just how rapidly things have changed. I know the ’70s are ancient history to most of you, but look at the monumental changes in just an eye-blink of history. Another reminder of the transformation in which we’re living.

    My landline rang in my office the other day, and I about jumped out of my skin. It was the first time it had rung in months.

    iPhones and Crackberrys, er, Blackberrys, already combine our cell phones and Web browser. Eventually we’ll all be Web-connected on-the-go. (Hey, Apple! Give up the exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T, would you?!)

    I view that all-connected, all-the-time future with equal parts anticipation and dread.

  2. I cannot imagine a world without social media, or our gizmos, gadgets and Macbooks. Since I don’t have Internet on my phone I feel like every lunch break is an hour of time where if something major happened and I was e-mailed about it, I would go unaware until my return to the office. Even not checking Facebook for a week is enough to make me be so behind on the social news of my world.

  3. I love the image you chose to include with this, because it definitely sets the tone for a different world in which we used to live in and the way we used to report the news–right down to the typewriter (seemingly ancient by most of our standards) and, of course, the smoldering cigarette.

  4. The title of this article is perfect — “When Publishing had Scents and Sounds.” The smell of tobacco mingled with the typewriter… it’s almost poetic.

    It reminds me of the opening credits of the 1981 movie “Absence of Malice.” If you haven’t seen the movie, it stars Sally Fields as a reporter who sets off a devastating chain of events when she prints inaccurate information leaked to her by the FBI.

    It’s a long movie, but the first few minutes feature all kinds of machines and tools of the trade used in the early 1980s.


  5. There is no other feeling quite like the one I get when I realize I’ve forgotten my cell phone. My pockets feel naked, my fingers get bored, and I’m overwhelmed by the fear that something earth-shattering is sure to take place and I’ll know nothing about it. Plus, I have no idea what time it is.
    Obviously technology, such as the cellphone, has become an essential part of daily life. Yet, when people go on vacations or day trips and the like, you often hear them talking about leaving their phones,computers,etc behind and finally being able to relax. As much as we love being constantly connected, sometimes it ends up being less stressful to be a little out of the loop every once and a while.
    But beforehand, I should invest in a watch.

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