The Changing Art of Communication

The art of communication has come a very long way since the 1940's and 50's. In the mid-twentieth century, apart from face to face verbal communication, information could be conveyed only by letter, telegraph, telephone or wireless, each method requiring it's own procedure and taking it's own period of time. Compared to 21st century's universally accessible instantaneous communication, the systems of a few decades ago seem really antiquated.

The office of the 1950's was a pretty unpretentious sort of a place, but the work was kept up to date, and at least you got to speak to a real live person when you phoned, not a machine that keeps saying, "Your call is important to us",when the time you are kept waiting tells you that it isn't.

This photo shows the Brisbane Office of an Insurance Company in the 1950's, in Spring. No computers! but notice the phone and the typewriters.

Let's see how the business mail system used to work just thirty years ago. The office executive would dictate letters to the secretary who would type them on the latest office typewriter, making a carbon copy for the office records. The secretary would return the letters to the executive to be checked and signed. Then the letters would be given, with addressed envelopes, to the postal clerk to be folded, stamped and posted at the end of the working day.

The post office would probably take two or three days to deliver the letters to the recipient, who might take another day or two to dictate and post a reply. In all probability the original executive would not expect to receive a reply to his letter for five to eight days, in which time he could put that matter aside and proceed with other matters.

In comparison, the 21st Century exec would expect to get all the information he requested in his e-mail in an hour or so or he would want to know why.

Long distance telephone calls used to be avoided as far as possible, and where absolutely necessary they were kept as short as possible to save cost. Staff were rarely, if ever, phoned regarding business matters at home. A staff member's time after business hours was considered private time and private time was not interrupted by business.

These days it seems that staff members are expected to be on call and in contact by mobile phone, SMS and e-mail, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whatever happened to private family time? Has our Boss really taken control of our lives 24x7?

Recently I heard a young exec talking about the "Good Work Ethic" of always being available, and I started to think of the reason why the crows fly backwards out west. They do it to avoid being blinded by bulldust. I often think how clever crows are, especially in this day and age.

Telegraph poles line the highways and byways of the world, carrying the old lines of communication, the copper wires that carried telephone calls as well as morse code messages that enabled the all important telegrams and cablegrams to be delivered quickly. To send a Telegram, one would fill out the message on a form at the local Post Office, or phone the Post Office and dictate the message. As charges were based on the number of words conveyed, the sender would be as brief as possible, leaving out unnecessary words.

At the Post Office a Telegrapher, who was an expert in Morse Code, the combination of long and short electronic dots and dashes that signified letters to form words, would spend his working day clicking out messages, which were printed out at the receiving Post Office.

Telegram boys were employed at the receiving Post Offices to deliver the brief and often cryptic printed messages. The boy would hop on his bicycle and pedal to the address of the recipient to deliver the Telegram. Many a Post Master started his career as a Telegram Boy.

A new and exciting development early in the 20th Century meant that communication was not entirely restricted to wires and cables. A whole new method of communication was opened up by the popular spread of what became known as wireless.

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