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"Look Out You Typists!"

15th January 2020

As a growing number of companies investigated automation in the workplace, there was an understandable degree of uncertainty among staff - fears that people would be replaced by 'robots' were gleefully reinforced by the tabloid press, as in this colourful 1953 Daily Mirror piece by Ronald Bedford (see pictured).

The description of LEO as 'a martian-looking monster' suggests far more menace than anyone looking at the real LEO installation would infer.

Also rather startling to a modern reader is the gendered language. All the typists, secretaries and clerks under threat are 'girls', while LEO is definitely male, 'flexing his wire muscles'. This was clearly quite typical of the times - among the David Caminer Papers, there are signs of the very different attitude to gender in the workplace:

'It [introduction of a computer] might well be a prospect that they view with distaste or even dismay, just as they or their forerunners regarded the introduction of girls in their offices or the substitution of copperplate by typewriters'.

 - from "How to Make an Appraisal", March 1960, text for an address by David Caminer  (DTC/1/12).

Posted by: Jude




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