Last Summer found me sitting in front of a Telex machine trying to see if I could still remember how to use one. They are, of course, long gone, dead and buried in land fill sites across the country.
At least that was what I thought. It seems I was wrong. They are not dead as a Dictaphone but still being used by banks and some companies. It remains just about the only way to send documents securely and know that it had been sent and received by the right recipient. There is a key, on the one in the picture, top left which reads “who are you?”, you always had to confirm who you were before the message was accepted and so there was no doubt who sent it and who received it. Back in the seventies I worked for a company that had two Telex teleprinters and employed two operators for them. One might imagine that using them was some sort of black art but they were really quite simple. Soon, we were down to one operator and then one of the secretaries was responsible for both of them. A little later on when she left the company it fell to me to add that job to my list. Whenever I fancied a cup of coffee or a longer lunch break I was always officially in the Telex Room! By that time I doubt if we had more than two or three telex messages a day. If I wasn’t at my desk then I must be in the Telex room. Trust me I’m a Telex Operator. I expect the fax machine partly took over from the Telex as well. I have a Fax at home and I can’t remember the last time I received a fax on it. It’s used for just doing the odd photocopy now.
I could never get on with the dreaded Dictaphone, a tape recorder with a foot pedal to stop it. By the time you had managed to transcribe the muttered ramblings into a letter you ended up having to do it again to correct the grammatical errors of the person who recorded it before you could put it in for signature. They were not very popular with secretaries but the audio typist was a lot cheaper to employ than a shorthand typist even if productivity went out of the window with them. Thank goodness for Shorthand.
The poster is from the long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk well worth a look and very useful for brushing up on your shorthand or giving it a try for the first time. Like operating a Telex it’s not some black art or anything.