Thanks to the popularity of shows like “Mad Men” and “Masters of Sex,” people love to see what offices looked like back in the day – often through dense clouds of cigarette smoke.
We’ve rounded up vintage photos of what offices used to look like, so we can appreciate how far we’ve come in regards to technology, interior design, and even safety!
Keep scrolling to see what your office might have looked like back in the day.
One of the most glaring differences between offices now and in 1940 is all the smoking — cigarettes were everywhere.
Technically, there are still some states where it’s legal to smoke inside an office – the only federal bans on smoking are on planes or in federal buildings.
However, you’d be hard-pressed to find an office building that allows people to light up at their desk.
And not just cigarettes — pipes were common sights as well. It’s a far cry from the smoke-free offices of 2018, which have designated places outside for people to smoke in.
The popularity of the traditional tobacco pipe has been steadily decreasing since the ’90s – though they’re making a comeback with hipsters.
Before every desk had a computer, there was more space to spread materials out.
This is a far cry from the tech-heavy workplaces of 2018.
Open plan used to look a little different.
Before electronic stock tickers made it possible to see the stock market in real time, employees had to print out the news on ticker tape and distribute it.
The last ticker tape machine was released in 1960 – they were first invented by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s.
Ticker tape has two legacies that live on in 2018. First, the stock prices running along the bottom of your TV screen are still called stock tickers. And second, ticker tape was given a second life when New Yorkers discovered that ticker tape made great confetti.
Ticker tape parades still happen, but shredded paper is used instead.
There are a lot of layers to unpack here. This secretary appears to be copying down a conversation she’s having with someone on the phone, that she is listening to using a proto-speakerphone device.
The above situation would be completely different in 2018. There are apps that can record a phone conversation, and headphones so that you don’t need to broadcast the conversation loudly.
That telephone amplifier is also obsolete – most phones now have speakerphones built in.
As technology advanced, every desk became equipped with its own typewriter.
The typewriter was first invented in 1867, but didn’t become popular until a couple of decades later, during the Industrial Revolution. It became people’s jobs to record facts and figures, and the typewriter was the easiest way to do that.
They stayed popular for over 100 years.
Bookkeepers used these machines, which appear to be a mixture of computer, typewriter, and calculator.
If you take a closer look, you might notice that all these bookkeepers are women, a trend that’s still prevalent to this day. According to Accountants Daily, 80% of bookkeepers are women – so maybe not everything has changed.
When typewriters became obsolete, offices implemented computers — and cubicles, which gave people a little privacy.
Cubicles first entered our lives in 1968, when they were invented by Robert Propst, who wanted to improve upon the typical open bullpen office. He thought cubicles would increase productivity and give workers privacy.
At first, cubicles flopped. But when companies realised that using cubicles would increase the number of people that could be crammed into a space, they really took off. The ’80s and ’90s were a booming time for cubicles.
Before email and Slack, some offices used to communicate via messengers who were given roller skates to speed up the process.
That’s some literal instant messaging.
Probably due to violating dozens of workplace safety violations, and the advent of computers, roller skating in the office is a thing of the past.
This office had a designated “tea lady” who would walk around providing refreshments.
Some offices still offer amazing perks.
Now, everything is totally digital and located in the cloud. But for years, all important records had to have physical copies.
This machine handled 80 individual records cards a minute – now, data can be uploaded to the cloud in just a few seconds.
Phone booths seem so old-fashioned today.
So do typewriters.
Note the ash tray, rotary phone, and old-fashioned radio. A far cry from what your typical desk looks like today.
Overall, it’s impossible to overstate just how different our work spaces use to be, even just 30 years ago. It makes you wonder – how different will they be 10, 15, 30 years from now?
- Read more:
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- 16 mind-blowing job perks that real companies offer
- 18 of the coolest offices in the US
- 17 ways your office job is destroying your health