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Cut and Paste

I started my professional career before we all had computers. “Back in the day” there were people called secretaries, and they were the only people authorized to commit content to paper. In some companies, that content could actually be done on prehistoric word processors, such as Videk.

Before micros, some of us accessed mainframes or timesharing machines using terminals. We would do “serious” stuff on these terminals, not secretarial tasks like writing letters or memos. But there were some text processors available. I used something called Script, which was from the University of Waterloo. Funny thing is that Script used commands that weren’t too different from HTML…

Getting back to cut and paste: I wrote some documentation when I was at Coopers & Lybrand. I used Script, which I had learned while in grad school. One day, the partner I worked for found out I was actually doing this document myself, and he threatened to fire me on the spot if I didn’t stop. I protested: “I need to cut and paste – move sections around until the document is right…”

“That’s what secretaries are for” he replied. To him, cut and paste meant just that: cut the replacement section out with scissors, and paste it where goes with glue.

I found out a few months ago that young people don’t know the origins of this phrase. When I recounted this story to a 20-something employee, he was dumbstruck.

Ah, how the world has changed.

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  1. clklei0 says

    Yes, I remember, late 70s, steno/typist pool. As a new telecom engineer I was told not to type or correct my engineering notes, leave it to the pool typists. The process was for me to hand write my notes, put them in the steno pool super’s inbox for assignment to a typist. After the typist finished, the notes went back to the super’s inbox for review and return to the engineer, me. Well that was a rapid one week turnaround and of course there would be an additional week required for each set of note revisions as the job details changed. Of course when the Wang Word Processors came along …. but that’s another story.