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Ask the Expert - Generational Differences

By: Ted Miller, HMCC, CHME, CHSP, CGTP, CGMP | Apr 14, 2020

Ted Miller_200x200Question: An employee recently left us who worked for us almost 30 years. As we went through the area where she kept her records we found several plastic rectangles with a metal circle in the middle. What can these be?

Answer: Being from the generation that used “other” forms of storage devices, what you are seeing were known as a compact floppy disks. The measure about 4 inches square and are made to go into a disk reader. The disk readers are still available and they act very similar to a thumb drive that you might use now. They have quite a bit of storage capability and were used for nearly 20 years as the best storage device for records or documents. In fact, I still have several and continue to use them.


Question: Since we all are so dependent on email, how did people communicate before email?

Answer: Well, besides smoke signals and the Pony Express, believe it or not, there was an early form of email that existed known as the Teletype. It was a large electric typewriter that was connected to a phone line. It had a rotary dial wheel which enabled you to “call” someone in another city or part of the world. In the earlier models, you actually had a telephone operator involved in the calls until the late ‘70s. It allowed you to have a two-way conversation such as you do now with email. It also had the capability of taking a message and recording it on paper tape that would tell the machine which letters to type. Before the late ‘90s, all phone charges were based on the distance called and the amount of time that the phone line was engaged. So sending a large message was done by taped messages that sent the message faster than a normal typist could send. Go and watch one of the first “Dirty Harry” movies and you will see the equipment being used.

Here is a period question, do you know what GAPLS meant?


Question: Can you please address mobile phones? I have two people in my office that swear the older very large phones had better call quality that what I have now.

Answer: Let me take you back a bit, the absolute best phones were “car phones” – hard mounted to a car that came out in the ‘60s. You used a mobile operator to dial the number for you and remained on the line until you finished your call. The best truly mobile phones had two versions, the “bag phone” which literally had a bag you carried with a large battery and then the first “cell” phone which Motorola produced. They still are considered the phones with the best call quality and had the safest signal as the call could not be “ghosted.” They did have one flaw – the signal could be captured by a scanner and used on a conventional phone to make calls if you did not have the line encrypted. Remember back then mobile and long-distance calls were expensive and a call would cost you a minimum of $5 even for just two minutes.


Question: Can you please tell how the fax machine came into existence?

Answer: The original fax machine was called a Quips machine and was developed for EXXON, known as ESSO in those days for communication between offshore oil rigs and their base offices. Telephone and radio communications were difficult in the ‘50s over water, so a cable ran from the rig to the shore and was able to carry signals, similar to how Morse Code was used. The cables then could not carry voice signals but could carry pulse signals and the machine was developed to transmit documents such as oil production figures and equipment required for the rig. Later, as the phone technology improved, you saw phone lines with four wires as you see today. Two wires were for voice communication and the other two for data transmission.


Period Question Answer – Go Ahead Please

A final question was sent that I thought should be answered. The question was who sold Noah the Arc? The answer is this author.



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