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Fogey time I

had a scary dream about 1971 the other night. In my dream, I had an iPhone and an iPad, but they

didn’t work because it was, well, 1971. My toys were nothing more than shiny black paperweights and my co-workers in that dream stared at me and my technology, and then shrugged. Who could possibly explain to

these primitive people what was to come during the next 40 years? Gives me the shivering fits just thinking about it. Who could foresee how much, and

how quickly, technology would change? Who could imagine that we’d someday be blasé about the marvels we carry in our pockets? AT&T dropped my call! Pity me. I know, I know. I’m an old fogey.

But just for a few minutes, please in- dulge me as we stroll through the early 70s. This is some of what we had to work with then. It’s a wonder we got anything done. • Frieden calculators —I had one

of these massive, mechanical/electri- cal calculators on my desk in 1972. It had rows and rows of buttons and a GO button that was the size of a black- board eraser (yes, we also had black- boards). Hit that button and the Frieden would make my desk shake like Elvis. It went chunkada- chunkada-chunkada for a good long time before coming up with the final numbers, and these would appear in little windows, like the score at Wrigley Field. And we adored this machine because the only alternative was a pencil, a sheet of paper, and the math the nuns had tried to pound into my thick skull. When electronic cal- culators arrived, each was the size of a lunch box, cost about $150, and did four functions, plus square roots. We were absolutely astonished. • Rotary phones — If you’re a

fogey like me, you’ll remember that delightful sound of a black dial turn- ing backwards. You’ll also remember the callous you developed on your index finger if you worked in an of- fice. All office phones were black and heavy enough to bludgeon someone. We held them with our heads bent un- naturally toward our shoulders, and in this way, chiropractors made a very good living. If you were a big shot, your phone had lighted buttons that made a satisfying click when you

• Remembering old tech • No GPS or AC • Scary inventory control

poked at them. The more lights on, the more important you were. If you were a grunt, you held onto the re- ceiver after hanging up because you knew for sure it was about to ring again. You thought customers were like hemorrhoids. • Switchboard operators — We

had Maggie, followed by Dancing Mary (a name she earned at her first Holiday party). The operator sat in the lobby and worked the dozens of cloth-covered cords, routing calls around the office and pacifying the many people on hold. The operator wore a headset and we never knew whether she was talking to us or to someone else. Operators prepared us for the cell-phone users who would come to our nation’s mass-transit sys- tems in the years ahead. They never give it a rest either. • Pay phones — When I left the

office for life on the road I learned about being on time for my appoint- ments. I had to be on time because there was no way, other than the pay phone, to let someone know I was going to be late. Working in New York City and on Long Island made finding a pay phone an interesting ad- venture. First, you had to double-park your car and run into a store, or an outdoor phone booth. Ever get towed? If you were lucky, you could pull off the parkway or expressway and use one of those phone-from- your-car pay phones, but most of the time, the other salespeople were on those. And the cords were never long enough to get the phone into the car. You sat with your head out the win- dow – in the rain. When I was in Brooklyn, I learned (the hard way) to inspect every handset before placing it on my ear because the rotten chil- dren loved to smear dog poop on those handsets. Such fun. • AM radio —That was standard

in our company cars. We could have FM if we paid for it, and that’s why most of us had only AM. We whistled the Top 40 songs and tapped our feet a lot. I’m quite certain that AM slowed my slog toward maturity. These days, I drive a car that talks to me with a pleasant female voice. She tells me what to do, and she never gets angry when I mess up or ignore her. She is totally unnatural, and had I met her in 1970, I certainly would have asked her out. She would decide where we would go, of course, and how we would get there. • Automobile climate control—

We had heaters, but no air condition- ing. My old boss thought that air con-

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ditioning in a car was an option that only sissies needed. He had it in his car, but no one could call him a sissy. We had to wear suits to work in the 70s, and not having air conditioning on a humid day in July made us all smell like Brooklyn telephones. It was really great for sales. • Telex—I was fascinated the day

this beast arrived. It looked like an electric typewriter that could survive nuclear war, and it chugged like the Friedan calculator. I’d sit at this thing and type a note to one of the factories we represented. When I was done, the machine would spit out a long piece of yellow paper, punched all along the way with tiny holes. I’d then reroute that paper back into the ma- chine and press the GO button. The paper would squeeze though, sending that holy code to a machine just like itself somewhere else in America. We didn’t have to talk to the factory peo- ple anymore, which, I suppose, pre- pared us all for e-mail. It was wondrous. • Dodge Reports —This was al-

ways a dank office in a crowded of- fice building, where piles of germy plans and specs waited for the many smelly salespeople who needed to do take-offs. We’d waste hours of our lives, waiting for that guy to fin- ish with the plans for that job so we could have a go at them. We were like cloistered monks, all hunched over and going blind in the lousy light of the Dodge Reports office. Oh, what I could have done in those days with an iPad! • Inventory — Helen sat all day

with her legs crossed under her on this swivel chair and smoked like it was her job. She died at a much-too- early age from the cigarettes, but ah, what she could do with those cards. She played them like a grand piano and kept track of every item in our warehouse. She knew all the part numbers by heart and her pencil flew like a conductor’s wand over that big bin. We had no computers. Every- thing the company owned was hand- written on individual cards in Helen’s gray bin. There was no back-up for any of this. We wrote all the orders with our hands and give them to Helen. She’d deduct each item, one at a time, from the cards in her bin, and check them off the paper order. She’d tear one of the colored carbon copies from each order and someone from the warehouse would stop by every hour or so to pick them up. No computers, no Internet, no cell phones, no air-conditioning any- where, no satellite radios, no EZPass, no GPS. No back-up, other than human memory. I cringe thinking about it. • Hagstrom Atlas — No GPS,


right? We used the Hagstrom Atlas and we each had one for every bor- ough of New York City, and another for each of the surrounding counties. Most of the places I had to go wound up being right on the metal coil that kept the atlas together. Tough to find. I’d drive with the atlas on my steering wheel, but that wasn’t as unsafe as texting, or talking on the phone, or fiddling with the satellite radio while driving. I made a lot of sales to cus- tomers who kept their offices in the horrible neighborhoods where the rent was cheap. I went to them like an innocent lamb because I was young and there was nothing in the Hagstrom Atlas that told me that I was an idiot. But then, the pleasant lady voice in my car would never tell me that either. I followed Hagstrom like the North Star and thought the South Bronx in the ‘70s was a peachy place to be because there was always plenty of parking available in front of the burned hulks of buildings. And no one ever bothered me there. Probably because, on most days, I smelled like a Brooklyn telephone. Hey, count your blessings.

n Dan Holohan began his love affair

with heating systems in 1970 by going to work for a New York-based manufacturers representative that was deeply involved in the steam and hot-water heating business. He stud- ied hard, prowled many basements and attics with seasoned old-timers, and paid close attention to what they had to say. Today, Holohan operates the popular website, www.Heat- He has written hun- dreds of columns for a number of trade magazines, as well as 15 books on subjects ranging from steam and hot water heating, to teaching tech- nicians. His degree is in Sociology, which Holohan believes is the perfect preparation for a career in heating. Holohan has taught over 200,000 people at his seminars. He is well known for his entertaining, anecdotal style of speaking. Holohan lives on Long Island with his wife, The Lovely Marianne. They have four incredible daughters, all out in the world and doing wonderful things.


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