CYNERGY: When dinosaurs ruled my desk top

Cynthia Burton
Cynthia Burton

Not long ago in an office galaxy not far away, we underwent a complete telephone system replacement/upgrade. The end result is a super-modernized system that's faster, way more efficient and very user friendly.

Offices today are streamlined, tech savvy and tech heavy. The recent upgrade took me back to my halcyon office days of the past. In those days, dinosaurs ruled my desk. Paleontologists, brace yourselves. These species may not be in your frame of scientific reference. They didn't roam about in the Cretaceous or Jurassic periods. My personal history records indicate these creatures existed as far back as 1978, in a lesser known period when individuals known as secretaries ruled the office world. It was known classically as the Secretaryassic period.

We who have keen insight into the Secretaryassic period can recall behemoths that preyed upon precious desk space and struck fear in the hearts of first time users. There was the carnation pink Smith Corona electric typewriter, also known as Smith Coronasaurus. Smith Coronasaurus was bulky, heavy (15 pounds), and a marvel compared to its predecessor, the Smith Corona manual typewriter. Thankfully, the old manual animal is now extinct (except for in museums).

The electric model required a correction tape ribbon cassette, roughly the size of your palm, which wasn't always an accurate gadget. The correction cassette existed before white out correction fluid. I remember waiting for the correction fluid to dry, not waiting long enough, and messing up an entire painstakingly-typed document. Those were the days, my friend (not!).

Another desk top dinosaur was the prolific Rolodex, or Rolodex-rex. It was the lifeblood of the office, because it contained the addresses of every important contact.

Available in a variety of styles (rotating, revolving, spinning), Rolodexrex provided instant, hands-on access and was a crucial communication tool. The nostalgic Pink Pearl eraser was a little chunk that resided next to your No. 2 yellow graphite pencil (and manual pencil sharpener). It was essentially a delete button.

Your desk wasn't fully dressed unless it had carbon paper, a circular eraser attached to a small brush (erase pencil mark, flick residue with built-in brush), a glass paper weight, (paperweighticus) a rotary dial telephone (rotaraptor), a spike stick to impale invoices or messages on (spike stickatops), ballpoint pens (gel ink wasn't around yet) and the proverbial pink message pad.

Tucked away in the desk drawer were archaic things like a phone book (classic!), mimeograph paper (does anyone out there remember the hulking mimeograph machine?), a white eraser for typing boo-boos (a cousin of the Pink Pearl) and possibly a dictionary (dictionaryodon).

I'm feeling a bit like a dinosaur myself (not extinct, but kind of ancient) having witnessed the genesis of hefty, boxy computers evolving into sleek flat screens and seeing basic copiers develop into machines that copy in color, scan, fax and dispense lunch orders (just kidding on that one). Office fossils include humongous microfiche machines (Google it, younger readers), projectors to display transparencies written with red grease pencils, and a leviathan called the telephone switchboard. I recall these nostalgic Secretaryassic fossils fondly, but I wholeheartedly embrace 21st century technology. The clack clack of the keys and the singular "ding" of the carriage return on my Underwood typewriter dissolved. Computers evolved and solved. Long ago in an office galaxy far, far away, dinosaurs ruled my desk top.

Cynthia Burton is a Destin resident and former US Marine.