Another significant invention in this decade was the invention of the photocopier by Chester Carlson in 1958. Prior to the invention of the photocopier, office documents had to be reproduced by mimeographing machines or by using a typewriter carbon paper when more than one copy is needed of an office document. The photocopier, still in wide use today and employing more complex photocopying capabilities and clearer resolutions, enabled the instant reproduction of documents. Reproduction of important documents lessened the risk of losing original copies as photocopies were those that were used in routine office tasks.
Carlisle (2004) asserted that “in 1966, the leading manufacturer of copy machines [VI ], Xerox Corporation, combined efforts with Magnavox to market a facsimile terminal for business use” (p. 350). While the copier merely reproduced copies of documents, the Fax, as the machine later on came to be known, enabled the transmission of the exact replica of the document across distances, eliminating the need of the postal system and similar courier services. The fax gave businesses the ability to transmit reproduction of documents across distances and increased the scope and breadth in which business conducted their ventures.
Having eliminated delays in the transmission of documents, productivity was boosted. It was not long before the fax became a standard office equipment. The Columbia Encyclopedia (2005) asserts that it was also at this time that the Internet had its beginnings through a military defense project called ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency network). It was a secret feasibility study conceived by the U. S. Department of Defense in 1969 to test methods of enabling computer networks to survive military attacks by means of dynamic rerouting of messages (“Internet”).
Business Communication from 1968 to 1977 In 1971, International Business Machines (IBM) introduced the first “memory disk”, or the “floppy disk” where data was written to and read from a plastic disk coated with magnetic iron oxide (“Invention of the Floppy Disk”, January 2007). This invention facilitated the storage and transfer of files from one computer to another. While it used to take a lot of paper and physical space to store important records, they could now be compressed in the floppy disk for future retrieval.
Speedy access and retrieval of files became the norm such that offices ceased to become repositories of pile after pile of document. Within this decade too, Motorola introduced the first pager in 1974 which was aptly named Pageboy, a radio frequency device that allowed the pager user to receive messages on a specific frequency on a special network of radio stations (“All About Pagers”, n. d. ) Through this device, doctors were notified about the conditions of their patients and were summoned in cases of emergencies.
The device was popular on account of the fact that one did not need to be within the vicinity of a landline phone in order to be reached. Eventually, one of the must haves of an upwardly mobile executive was the possession of this miniature device. Business entities kept tabs on the whereabouts of their personnel through this device and ensured that the latter were always within reach. Interest in this device gradually waned with the advent of the Short Messaging System that became a standard service of the cellular phone. According to Voicenation, Gordon Mathews was awarded the patent for voice mail in 1982.
(“The History of Voice Mail,” 2006) Complementing the telephone answering machine that was invented earlier, voice mail enabled telephone callers who cannot deliver their message due to the absence of the intended recipient of the call to leave a recorded message on the phone. Once the intended recipient gets hold of the phone, he can play back all the messages that were recorded during his absence. This invention finally dispensed with the office assistant who used to take all calls, record the message and forward the same to the intended recipient.
Office assistants are then freed from the routine task and given more challenging assignments. Up to the present, voice mail is still being used by customers to leave behind urgent messages so that customer service representatives who could not take the call on account of the sheer volume of callers could initiate a return call later. In 1979, the telephone industry started to under major changes with the introduction of the first cellular phone communication network in Japan (“History of Communications,” n. d. )
Due to the relative ease and economy of putting up geographically dispersed base transmission stations instead of the usual wired telephone system which necessitated the use of cables strung on telephone poles or underground, the technology caught on in Third World countries as well. The cellular phone underwent modifications well into the next two decades that it eventually became capable of transmitting not only voice but data as well. It was also during this decade, in 1981, that ARPANET reached its first subscriber limit of 256 computers.
Redesigned and renamed as the INTERNET, it eventually became capable of being used by an unlimited number of subscribers. (“History of Communications,” n. d. ) The use of the Internet by people who frequently travel was boosted with the sale of the first laptop computers in 1981. While the previous decade saw data being stored in floppy disks in offices, the advent of the laptop computers virtually enabled workers to bring the office with them giving rise to the notion of the mobile office. Business Communication from 1988 to 1997 Enhancements to the landline phone and to the cellular phone marked this decade.
Aside from this, the affordability of portable satellite phones enabled business entities located in very remote areas to establish a communication link with the head office in the heart of the cities. More value added features was added to the standard cellular phone. As Carbone (2006) observed, new features of wireless phones allow users to send e-mail, take pictures, and even watch television broadcasts. (p. 1) Due to its portability and flexibility, the mobile phone became the connection of the head office to its field personnel as teleconferencing enabled employees in various locations to partake in a meeting over the phone.
Instead of leaving one’s message in the voice mail, one could already forward a call to another phone with the touch of a few buttons. Hardly is any employee beyond the reach of management. This connectivity eventually blurred the line between personal life and professional life. Purvi Patel of the Illinois Institute of Technology claims that it was within this decade that the US government released its control of the ARPANET. (“Computers and Communication,” n. d. )