Brenda Brown

Because I spent countless years of my life working in various office situations, I cannot help but reminisce about how much things have evolved and generally improved over the years. The following are just a few memories of those working days of yesteryear.

Thankfully, the times of being forced to type an entire document, sometimes countless pages, without making a mistake have finally ended. We can now edit as we type and we have programs that assist with spelling, form and content.  

Back in the day, there were several ways to correct a typo but none of them were satisfactory.  

I am thankful that the ancient erasers with those useless brushes cannot be found anymore, and even though white-out is still sold in office supply stores, I am not sure who uses it.

Remember the early copy machines that used the thermal-type paper? The copy it produced was better than no copy at all but within months, it rolled up and became illegible. The person who invented the copy machine that used white copy paper was a genius; offices today cannot function efficiently without cases of copy paper in storage.

Then there was the curse of all secretarial staff, carbon paper; it not only defaced and obliterated documents, but it also ruined the outfits of the professionally-dressed office personnel. The ink from copy paper was permanent; if you got a stain from carbon paper you might as well throw away that garment. Carbon paper was invented in the 1820s by an Englishman named Ralph Wedgewood.

For reasons unknown to our office workers, years ago, Georgia Military College purchased paper in reams that were six layers thick. In between the white layers was that old demon carbon paper sheets. To use it as one layer, some unlucky individual, usually me, stood for hours and separated the stacks so we could print on the whiter paper and discard the carbon sheets. The process was labor-intensive and if that fact had been taken into consideration, it could not have possibly saved revenue.

According to an article in the New York Times in 1998, carbon paper’s legacy lives on in the modern offices in the abbreviation “cc” for carbon copy, which still appears at the end of many memos composed on personal computers and in email, meaning that the message was sent to more than one person.

Speaking of antique paper, remember the dot matrix printers and the curious paper products that you were forced to use? That continuous feed paper with the holes in the side that was such trouble to keep going continuously; it never failed to hang up or feed improperly when you needed to print an important report. Someone was forced to stand by the printer in case of an emergency misfeed.

Then there was the popular green bar paper. It never seemed to line up perfectly; then at the finish, you had to tear off the sides which always left those pesky perforations on the sides.

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