The beginning of the end of the secretarial pool

There are no secretaries in the modernized office of 1978, and there are no typewriters either. Instead, there are specialists who operate word processing machines.

Office machinery is being revolutionized and the role of the secretary is changing

In 1978 in the up-to-date business office, revolutionary new machines have dramatically changed work practices for secretaries. (CBC Archives)

There are no secretaries at this ultra-modern Canadian National Railway office. And no typewriters, either. 

It's 1978, and management has replaced the old-fashioned machines with time-saving computer terminals, operated by "word processors."

Thanks to the the video display text editor, the work of the secretary has been transformed, and typing has become word processing. (CBC Archives)

Green-screened machines, called visual display text editors (VDTEs) and resembling small television sets with keyboards, are operated by specially-trained staff.

Aside from the ease of operation and conveniences for the word processor herself, the operator of the VDTE can do a lot more work in a day than on an ordinary typewriter. 

And the best part of this, according to office manager Stan Lewis, is that productivity is up and that will only get better. 

And dictating a letter no longer requires having a secretary walk into the office. 

No need for a secretary to take dictation, simply pick up the phone and speak. (CBC Archives)

Thanks to computerization, dictating a letter means simply speaking into a telephone. The message is relayed to a "thought-tank system" and then over to a word processor's text editor. 

But if secretaries are worried about machines eliminating jobs, manufacturers see the opposite effect. With the creation of new roles for the secretary, "we put those same secretaries that used to be doing all functions in the office into special categories now." 

The office of tomorrow has arrived in 1978

45 years ago
Duration 2:44
Computerization of business machines has revolutionized office work in 1978, as "secretaries" evolve into "computer processors."