Home > LEO Computers > LEOPEDIA > Historical Newspapers > It will be Goodbye to the Office Worker

It will be Goodbye to the Office Worker

 Home > LEO Computers > LEOPEDIA > Historical Newspapers > It will be Goodbye to the Office Worker

Article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph on 11th November 1954 on LEO I.

Next to the main article is another, entitled Coventry's 'Brain', about an electronic accounting system installed by Coventry City Treasurer's Department. Exactly what the 'brain' is, is not made clear.

Date : 11th November 1954

Transcript :

U.S. Robots Make TV sets: in Britain -
It Will be Goodbye to the Office Worker

By Ian Baker

Sir Ben Lockspeiser, the secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, forecast recently that the day was near at hand when offices would be staffed almost entirely by electronic computers instead of by clerks.

Although Britain has lagged behind Russia and the United States in building the all-automatic factory - I tell later of an American concern that claims to be able to assemble television sets without the intervention of a single human hand - Britain is a pioneer of the robot office.

Affecting Millions 
This new industrial revolution which will sweep the world in the near future will fundamentally alter the life of millions of people.

The all-electronic office will not need the lower grade of clerk. Instead, a few highly skilled mathematicians, assisted by equally skilled electronics engineers, will enable even the largest office to function with greater efficiency than if it were staffed entirely by men and women.

The electronic “brain” installed by J. Lyons and Co. in London cost £150,000, and can do the work of 300 clerks.
At the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, Hampshire, there is a machine called a “three-dimensional analogue computer.” Although it cost £750,000 to build, it can do the work of 10,000 clerks. 

The Smallest
But these are large calculating machines containing many thousands of valves and they are designed to cope with many thousands of diverse calculations. There are already many smaller computers, such as those built at Imperial College and at Birkbeck college. 

Both colleges are associated with the University of London, where the Ape (X) C is one of the smallest digital computers ever built.

It is now possible, through the development of germanium and silicon transistors (which can replace the larger thermionic valves), to build portable calculating machines which could be taken from place to place in an office building to solve individual problems at great speed or to the various parts of a factory to workout engineering problems alongside the machines.

Robot Factories
At the same time that British scientists are designing electronic machines which will do all general accounting problems likely to be encountered in an office, others are already producing the robot factory where machines can make completed articles without any human supervision. 

Progress in this direction has been very rapid in the United States and Russia. In America one big radio manufacturer has designed a battery of 39 machines that will assemble a 21-inch tube television set without a single human touching it. The cost of this set is only £50.

In Russia a factory making pistons for motor cars is also completely robot.

In the case of the television set the base plate has on it a printed circuit in copper, and the components are fitted to this automatically, the machines actually baring wires and soldering and screwing components into position without any need for human hands to intervene.

‘Automatic’ Mine
The lathes which produce such items as pistons are more easily controlled, for electronic “brains” merely direct the action of the cutters on bar metal. Rather more difficult are the automatic processes in a foundry or in a textile mill.
One United States coal mine is operated without miners underground except for those erecting roof supports. The cutting machines, the filling machines and the conveyers are all worked automatically and engineers on top watch everything on their television sets.

There is no barrier to a large-scale adoption of these new methods of accounting and manufacture beyond the normal production difficulties of the electronics engineering firms.

There are on the market robot telephone exchanges which can accept messages and even transmit them; there are electronic machines that can keep the books with greater accuracy than the most careful clerk; and others which can even translate letters in foreign languages and prepare answers to them. There are machines to translate the orders of the office into finished articles for sale.

Economic Change
All this will mean that in a comparatively short time tens of thousands of clerical workers will find themselves redundant. At the same time hundreds of thousands of semi-skilled factory workers will find that there is no need for them to stand at the machine all day.

The end of the era of white-collar workers with the advent of automatic offices will produce an economic change even more important than the introduction of the all-automatic factory because men already accustomed to factory life will adapt themselves more readily than office workers. The demand will be for the skilled worker - the skilled designer, electronics and electrical engineer, the skilled toolmaker, and the expert overseer.

The new age will bring an end to the demand for the unskilled worker except in a few jobs. The makers of computers will call for thousands of highly-skilled workers.

How will the transition period affect the office worker? His will be the hardest task in picking up an entirely new kind of life. He will need to turn his attention to acquiring new skills, perhaps when he has reached an age at which learning new trades is not easy.

Biggest Advance
But if this difficulty can be overcome, and no doubt it will be solved in most cases, the electronics age, far from bringing new threats to employment, as some would imagine, will bring about the greatest advance in living standards ever experienced in the world. 

The worker will need to be skilled, and that will open up new opportunities for all men and women. The incredible speed at which computers can work will reduce working hours to a very great extent once the problem of speeding up the feeding of information into their “brains” has been fully solved. 

The drabness of factory life will largely be brought to an end when machines can take over the endlessly repetitious work of modern times, and man can be freed to dream up new wonders of mechanisation and automatic working and learn new ways to use leisure.

Coventry's brain
Recently, guests at a Coventry lunch in we're told that the installation of an electronic accounting system in the City Treasurer’s department had made possible a staff saving of 20.

The new equipment can handle the weekly pay rolls for 5,000 and the monthly salaries for 2,000. It could calculate in two seconds a wage or salary with all the usual adjustments. 

Leading scientists and industrialists believe that the second Industrial Revolution is imminent.

The Institution of Production Engineers is to hold a national conference next summer to explore some of the technical and sociological problems arising of the advent of the automatic factory.

Related Topics:
This exhibit has a reference ID of CH64161. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Scan of Document: It will be Goodbye to the Office Worker

Click on the Image For Detail

Help support the museum by buying from the museum shop

View all items

Founding Sponsors
redgate Google ARM Real VNC Microsoft Research
Heritage Lottery Funded
Heritage Lottery Fund
Accredited Museum