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Vintage Tech

Today is my last day working the polls. I worked 6-days, and I am not working election day this year. It has been a great experience and I have learned a lot. My polling place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion is across the street from the LA County Hall of Administration. I worked at the Hall of Administration in the late 80’s – during the age of vintage tech. I have been reminiscing about my time there.

I was part of a small computer services department that served the LA County Board of Supervisors. Oh, those were the days. Wordstar, was the word processor and only a few department were connected to a LAN. I even installed an OS/2 LAN.

Vintage tech at its finest. In this photo, I am sporting a conservative skirt with my 80’s hair, because I was not allowed to wear pants to work. Yep, you read that right. In the late 1980’s there were still places that required women to wear a dress or a skirt. When I asked about the ridiculous rule at the interview, I was told it was because some women did not understand the difference between dress pant and jeans. My response was; they should be fired if they are that dumb. Men have the same issue and would be written up or fired for wearing jeans. Even then, I knew the rule was some sexist bullshit.

I was computer support for the Board Supervisors and their staff. I met Schabarum, Antonovich, Dana and Edelman. I did things like install software, fix broken printers, install new equipment and answer user questions. But some of the most interesting things about this gig was that working for the government meant very different things – depending on who you were supporting. Because we supported the elected officials, we had the “best-of-the-best”. Our Payroll department had a cutting-edge, super-expensive duplexing printer on every desk. Even though the desks were lined up next to one another. Sharing a printer was not even considered. While other departments were using old equipment and asked to return their pencil stub to be issued another.

At this time, the county administration had been using both word processors and other systems to manage most things for a couple of years. The payroll had been automated two years prior. But the management didn’t trust the system, so the staff was required to do it manually as well. For 2 years they did this. And the “secretary-pool” was also required to manually type the board minutes while another member did the same using the word processor on the computer. There was so much double work and waste. There was a huge mistrust in computers. It was an interesting time.

This was also the time when I met Nancy Reagan. She came to downtown Los Angeles for a book tour and her helicopter landed on the roof out our building. The staff was allowed to greet her when she arrived. She paused to shake hands with us all and say hello. It was a time before cell phone photos, so there is no selfie, you’ll just have to take my word for it. She was lovely. Enjoy your Monday!!  


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