The workplace of 1990 seems worlds away compared to that of today’s; technological advances and differences in thinking have grown by leaps and bounds in the last 25 years. Some of the most vital workplace items are barely recognized by today’s standards. In the 1990’s office, you’d likely find:
- Typewriters or other electric word processors. Computers weren’t the ubiquitous staple we take for granted; offices did have computers (more on that below), but employees regularly used typewriters (which allowed you to “backspace” to delete…or you could carefully white out your mistake). This made for lots of bulging file drawers.
- Computers that used actual disks. Think about the “save” icon you see on your word processing program. What is that little icon? That is an actual diskette upon which you stored your documents – and you probably had a filing case because you needed multiple ones because they didn’t have a ton of storage space.
- Smoking rooms. Before Big Tobacco got taken down in the latter half of the 90s, many offices had designated smoking rooms where employees could take a relaxing, blue-tinged smoke break. And it most likely wasn’t separate from the rest of the building; a closed door would be enough.
- Rolodex. If you haven’t seen one, a Rolodex is a rotating spindle with detachable index cards where you kept all of your contacts, sort like a tiny filing system. As people moved and changed numbers, you could easily take the card out, scribble out the old number (or go for that trusty white out again), and write in the new one.
- Landlines. No cell phones here – they were for the wealthy, not the workers. Admittedly, most companies still have them, but they were your primary source of communication. There was no email yet, and possibly no call-waiting.
- Lack of disabled accommodations. On the not-so-light side, the Americans with Disabilities Act came about in 1990, so not every workplace had the ramps, elevators, bathroom stalls, or even parking spaces to accommodate employees with physical impairments. Fortunately, the ADA changed offices drastically and for the better.
- Walkmans. Some offices allowed for personal use of headphones and music. If you wanted to do that, you had to bring along your Walkman (a personal tape deck). This was back when you also had to either choose to listen to the same tape over and over, make an extra-long mixtape (think of it as the early form of the playlist), or a few of your favorites to switch out. And lots of AA batteries.
- Phone books. Along with the Rolodex, offices had a communal phone book. White pages were for residential listings, yellow pages were business. They were also helpful for killing spiders on the floor and giving an extra few inches of height when trying to reach something.
- Dictaphones. While fast typing skills have been around for many years, 25 years ago, executives still dictated letters and other correspondence on a tape recorder that someone then played back and typed up. They were also helpful for those times when you wanted to remember to do something but just didn’t feel like using pen and paper.
- Everyone in suits. 25 years ago, you wouldn’t dream of wearing anything resembling casual clothing to the office. It was suits, skirts, ties, heels, and stockings, maybe a nice sweater with dress pants.
Offices have changed, most say for the better. What will be on this list 25 years from now? For help with any current or future office needs, reach out to the experienced recruiters at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks.