Over the years, there have been numerous articles musing on what the office of the future would look like, but how have those past predictions matched up to reality today?

Back in 1975, BusinessWeek published “an in-depth analysis of how word processing will reshape the corporate office.” In the article, industry experts were divided over whether they would be able “to call up documents” from their files on-screen and connect electronic terminals to each other or if this vision of the future was, in fact, “scare talk.” One of the biggest concerns raised was how word processing would change the traditional secretary-executive relationship.

I think it’s safe to say that the predictions in the article put forward by George E. Pake , then head of Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto Research Center, were largely correct. According to Pake, in 1995, there would be a TV-display terminal with a keyboard sitting at his desk and he’d be “able to call up documents from my files on the screen, or by pressing a button … I can get my mail or any messages. I don’t know how much hard copy [printed paper] I’ll want in this world.”

I have it on good authority from Jonathan Howell, Huddle’s CTO, that in the 1990s, everything was networked, all internal communication was done via email on a mainframe and desktop printers (with “desktop” referring to ubiquity rather than size) were commonplace. However, Jonathan was working for IBM in the 90s; what was it like for the rest of the workforce?

Note: This excerpt is from a blog post, Back to the Office of the Future, that I originally wrote for GigaOm’s Web Worker Daily in April. To read the post in full, please go to Web Worker Daily. (http://bit.ly/gLYCKr)


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