Our Internet and email went down last week, which was a sharp reminder of how much we rely on computers in our daily business lives.

For me it was also a reminder of how we worked in my early days of PR when I started in the business.

Imagine, if you can, a world without computers, of manual typewriters, no mobile phones, carbon paper to secure a copy of what you typed and there were no printers or fax machines.

Media releases were typed and photocopied and either delivered to the daily media by courier or posted to the trade media, or you put them in your jacket pocket and walked down the street and dropped in to see your journalist mate and perhaps buy him a beer and a bite.

The journalist was most likely male as also were most PR consultants at that time, although the consultancy I worked for had a female joint managing director Esta Handfield, who was later the first female president of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (Victoria).

There was a machine called a Gestetner which produced rather blotchy multiple copies off a typed master, but if there were typing mistakes in the master it could only be corrected with a blue paint which obliterated the mistake and allowed you to make a correction. But the end result was often a blob of ink on the printed copy.

An old Gestetner

An old Gestetner

The PR office I was in produced a weekly Legislative and Parliamentary Newsletter for several hundred subscribers which always seemed to create a Friday night scramble to get it in the mail, particularly if the master had to be retyped several times.

The same type of office conditions prevailed when I worked in London and visited the US several times in the 1960s.

But it all changed for us when we installed computers and networked our office in the Sydney CBD in the 1980’s. I remember that the daisy wheel printers were so noisy they were installed in their own soundproof cubicles.

The computer, which has brought the Internet, emails, social media, plus mobile phones and sweeping technological change has revolutionised how PR works today, although the fundamentals of the business have essentially remained the same.

We now live in a global village where it is simple to make contact with anyone in the world (provided they are awake at the time), send them a media release, a picture or a video.

I don’t yearn for the ‘good old days’, as although it is good to be nostalgic, we live in exciting times and it is also important to embrace change and move forward.

-Dennis Rutzou