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In the stores at the Museum of London there is a sort of giant graveyard full of old office machinery. On one estimate, the UK in the pre-computer age shoved more than two million tonnes of paper into filing cabinets every year. The Bank of England, never one to hurry into anything, was not connected until 1902 but then they were still buying quills till 1907.The merchant bank Schroders refused to have its name in the telephone directory, for fear that incoming calls caused distraction.
And as for ending a call, a 1926 telephone magazine advised that it was up to the caller to signal the end, unless a man and a woman were speaking, in which case it was up to the "second sex" to ring off first.But that was all in the US. If anyone really wants me, they send me an email, and because I don't like random disturbances any more than the Edwardians did, I've stopped answering my desk phone altogether. Leicester City - 5,000-1 outsiders in August - are Premier League champions in one of the greatest ever sporting achievements. The Monarch Telephone Manufacturing Company was founded in Chicago in 1901 and purchased by American Electric in 1925, which was in turn purchased by Automatic Electric.What next? For a hundred years it was a noisy place, filled with the sound of telephones and typewriters.
William Preece, chief engineer of the General Post Office, declared that the new gizmo was merely "a substitute for servants".
And at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the phone was regarded with such suspicion that operators had to answer with the words, "I am the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank".People worried that the phone took away their privacy, in much the same way that we now fret over social networking.


It was relentless and exhausting, involving cumbersome apparatus and the speedy plugging and unplugging of cords at various heights and, of course, dealing with the public, who weren't easy to please.The Times complained about uppity switchboard girls. Now it is almost silent - just broken by the gentle sound of someone saying: "Nipping out to get a latte.
The earliest model is the Burroughs adding machine, which could calculate relatively complicated sums with its rows of keys and pull handle. Because it was expensive in its earliest form - it was the equivalent of about ?80 today - you only sent a telegram if you actually had something to say.
In 1914, we had the worst telephone service in the civilised world, according to the Quarterly Review.There were then fewer than two telephones per 100 people in the UK compared with 10 in US. The absence of servants has compelled America to adopt communications systems for domestic purposes.
Then came the typewriter, which brought with it a number of other late 19th Century breakthroughs - the filing cabinet, the adding machine, and in particular the telephone.
Few have worked at the telephone much more than I have, I have one in my office but more for show. If I want to send a message - I employ a boy to take it."By 1880, the first ever British phone directory had a mere 285 names - all of them London business, and mostly traders, dealing in everything from sugar to ostrich feathers. In the dark ages before this simple bit of furniture was invented, clerks wrote everything down in massive ledgers and on pieces of paper tied up in bundles.


If the clerk left or died suddenly, any chances of finding anything often died with him.With the cabinet, information could be arranged alphabetically, which meant it was theoretically possible to find it again. Easy communication encouraged the growth of sprawling multinationals with offices everywhere. The office switchboard was the hub of office, a sort of social glue connecting everyone to everyone else.
That was great - what wasn't so great is that this created an entire industry of unnecessary work. How much room do you think the necessary elevators would leave for offices?"In the US they couldn't get enough of the phone. Telephones made business democratic - a man on the factory floor could talk directly with the boss without having to go through all the levels in between."It gives a common meeting place to capitalists and wageworkers," wrote Herbert Casson in his 1910 book The History of the Telephone.



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