How energy has changed the way we use technology in the workplace

How energy has changed the way we use technology in the workplace

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Can you remember using a typewriter in the office? How about a manual switchboard? npower has just released research about the ways in which technology has transformed our working lives over the past 60 years – read on to find out more…

A brand new study, produced by Warwick Business School, was conducted to support our ‘Remember how we used to work’ online archive. It maps out our love of office gadgets, from typewriters to telex and computers to smartphones, and shows just how reliant we have become on technology.

Starting in the 1950s, take a trip down memory lane, with our decade by decade guide to our key research findings…


  • Telephones and typewriters were as far as office technology stretched in the ’50s, with larger organisations employing pools of typists.
  • Secretaries were dictated to by senior workers, scribbling notes by hand, before typing letters and memos.
  • Making a phone call was no simple feat! Companies often used a central manual switchboard. Non-local calls had to be put through the General Post Office.


  • IBM launches its ‘selectric typewriter’, which allows typists to use a range of fonts within one document.
  • Carbon paper has become commonplace and is used to copy documents. Meanwhile, larger companies began investing in Xerox photo copiers.
  • In 1962, there were just 10,000 computers in the world!


  • A lot of fixed phones with corded handsets began to be replaced with push-button phones.
  • Memory typewriters were introduced into large companies for the first time so everything could be typed and checked before printing.
  • Telex machines became popular – allowing the operator to send and receive texts.
  • Floppy disks became available.


  • Push button telephones became commonplace.
  • Mobiles made their mark – the first mobile phone call was made in Britain in 1985.
  • Fax machines replaced the telex machine.
  • There was a rise in personal computers due to increased availability of microprocessors and microchips.
  • Word processors with a memory and LCD display became more popular.


  • By the ’90s, most workers owned a mobile phone and used it daily.
  • Videoconferencing became more widely available.
  • PCs have established themselves as integral to UK offices and email has become a standard office tool.


  • Long gone are the days of typewriters, which have been superseded by PCs.
  • The use of fixed line phones has now declined with increased mobile phone use.
  • Blackberry launched its first smart handset in ’03 and the iPhone from Apple become available in 2007.
  • Laptops and tablets continue their evolution, becoming smaller and more powerful.

If you have any pictures of workplace technology past and present, please post them to our archive!.

Do you think the reliance on technology will continue to grow generation after generation? Please feel free to leave us comment.

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