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A nostalgic look at 80s tech on VCR Day

Posted by Louise Palmer on 9th June 2017

This week, Wednesday 7 June marked VCR Day — the date to celebrate that trusty format from our (well my) youth.

It was a time when “Friday film night” meant a trip to the local video shop and a squabble with siblings to select just one title. In fact, we probably spent more time choosing videos than actually watching them (weren’t films a lot shorter back in the day?).

Although to be honest the video shop experience was preferable to recording a film directly from the TV. Programming the VCR seemed to take hours and you could guarantee someone would change the channel halfway through Lost Boys and you’d end up with 30 minutes of Grandstand.

On-demand services and digital recording have no doubt revolutionised how we watch and store content. But it’s not only in our personal lives where we have seen drastic changes. Within the workplace, the technology at our disposal has dramatically evolved.

It’s an area that we’ve been exploring with many of Wildfire’s clients, looking at the impact of technology on the way we work and interact. And it made me think about my first experience with workplace technology.

Here’s just a few tech-related items that I remember from my first years in the office environment:

  • The office phone: “Dial 9 for an outside line” or you’d never get anywhere. I’m not quite old enough that I had to use an actual ‘dial’, but a rolodex did come in very handy when you needed to remember more than the five contact numbers who could programme.
  • The photocopier: That trusty machine the size of a small planet, ideal for using up a small forest in your quest to circulate hundreds of copies of documents to colleagues, journalists and agency partners.
  • The overhead projector: There were no whiteboards, pull-up screens or wall-mounted projectors. Instead, you would use marker pens to draw nice colourful pictures on acetates to present your lovely ideas.
  • The CD media database: Forget Gorkana, ResponseSource and Cision. Our media contacts were all loaded onto a CD and sent through the post. In fact, this was a luxury in the early years, relying instead on the arrival of new ‘Media Disk’ volumes, making the office resemble that of an Encyclopædia Britannica fanatic.
  • The fax machine: A revelation at the time (just how did that piece of paper travel down the wire and come out in someone else’s machine?), the novelty soon wore off. Before you could send anything you had to wait for the backlog of spam faxes to come through the machine (no-one ever kept the paper supply topped up), then it was a Krypton Factor-style mission to make sure the paper was facing the right way up and the right way round.

Talking of fax machines, here’s a short video courtesy of our client Fuze, where 16 year olds try their hand at using this 1980s phenomenon for the first time.

I’m all for a bit of nostalgia, but thank goodness for the simplicity of modern-day technology.

Photo credit.

Louise Palmer

Deftly switching between business and consumer accounts, the focus for Louise remains the same; how can Wildfire tell clients’ stories in a way that is faithful, relevant and engaging? Her wide technology PR experience makes Louise an agile and versatile Associate Director and fantastic resource for the team, combining the strategic management of PR programmes with a hands-on approach to get under the skin of clients and motivate her teams.