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Thread: The 20 Years Ago At City Hall Thread

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    The 20 Years Ago At City Hall Thread

    When I started my first full time job at City Hall in 1990:

    -Everyone was allowed to smoke at their desk.
    -Amonia blueprint machines were the norm.
    -AutoCAD 9 was the platform
    -Windows 3.1 was uncommon on most PC machines. Few people ran DOS based WordPerfect, everyone else worked on green CRT IBM AS/400 workstations.
    -The one "official zoning map" was updated on mylar with zip-tone adhesive patterns.
    -Some Department Heads were known to keep a bottle of brandy in their desk drawer.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    While I wasn't working in planning:

    I had a Wang workstation (which was actually an IBM PC clone) running on a Banyan Vines network. I remember when they eventually had to upgrade the workstations from 640K of memory to 1 meg to run the Banyan client. Interestingly, there were no hard drives on these machines, they pulled all of their software down from the server.

    Speaking of software, I *rocked* on Wordstar 2000. I could make that program do almost anything.

    We had no e-mail, even though it existed for other workers in other departments. Our IT person felt that e-mail was too insecure.

    I also remember spending interminable amount of time getting and receiving faxes.

    I also remember doing some reseach at this job by physically going to a library, looking through a card catalog, and using the Bibliography of Periodical Literature (is that what it was called?) to find information. The Internet is a wonderful thing.

    Plus lots and lots (and lots) of paper files.

  3. #3
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Evidentially, everything here was just mother*&^%ing perfect! And how did we manage to screw it all up?!
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  4. #4
    Cyburbian rosierivets's avatar
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    I've found that some municipalities still do some of the same things they did years ago. For example, my former employer did not have a cash register. They used a legder book with carbon copy receipts and put the cash in a desk drawer. I find that pretty frightening. They even let one employee go because she was stealing cash from the drawer yet did nothing to modernize the system at that time.

    When I got to my current employer, I was in awe of things like scanners and barcodes and automatically generated receipts and large scale copy machines and scanners. Yay current employer!
    How about you take a gander at making an executive decision for once, huh?

  5. #5
    I had the only desktop computer in City Hall: my personal Macintosh SE with dot-matrix printer purchased through an Apple partnership with Ball State University. All the administrative staff had word processors that were not linked.

    Staff reports were hand-written then typed by a secretary. The copier could not collate.
    We didn't get a fax machine until 1994.

    A fond 'yes' to koh-i-noor and zip-a-tone: hand-drafted can be so much more satisfying than CAD-drafted.
    Je suis Charlie

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    De Noc Office of Planning (At City Hall)

    Of course this Bear is not a planner. Yet, I was working on my fake city (De Noc) 20 years ago. Here are a few items from my office, back then.....

    All building names (except residential houses) were typed on small index cards and filed by category.
    All documents, lists, etc. were typed and filed in a multiple sets of 3-ring binders.
    All plats (big drawings) were filed in a hand-crafted wooden cabinet, with slide-outs for easy access.
    A cigar box was used for the collection of pencils. They would be turned in different directions, depending on if "sharpened" or not.
    The pencil sharpener was manual, crank style.
    A complete set of "mini-maps" was drawn on large-size file cards. Used for project planning.
    In the 1960s the typewriter was an electric Oliveti-Underwood.
    By the late 1970s I had purchased a clone of the IBM Selectric (electronic) typewriter.
    The local library was the research center.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I had a secretary who developed carpotunnel and when I suggested to the Dept Head that we should develop some egonomic standards, she started hitting her desk and told me not to use that "kind of language" (I knew that she wasnt the shapest knife in the drawer and that she had been appointed to her position so the CM could control the Department, She only had a high school education.) When she stopped screaming and pounding the desk, I just nodded, kept a relatively straight face and went back to my office, And promptly started sending out resumes. It was almost exactly 20 years ago this month.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    OMG I forgot my koh-i-noor's and LeRoy lettering! Somewhere in a box in storage I still have a set that cost about $200 in 1988. (required for 500-level geography classes).

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Mac SE
    Zip-a-tone maps
    LeRoy lettering & rapdiographj pens (sizes 000 - 4)
    A manual K&E Planimeter (that was fun to use to calcualte area)
    Blueprint machines
    IBM Selectric Typewriter (with 4 type wheels)
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Harrassment

    Student internship, regional planning commission:

    one of the planners hit on me. Big time. In front of other people. With a long dissertation on how my then-BF was a "mere callow youth" and why he was the better man for me.
    And this was my supervisor.

    Think it made a lasting impression? The year was 1978.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    There is an old volume somewhere in the archives of the local pvblic library that was the City of Appleton's detailed zoning map 'book' that was in use until at least the mid 1980s, with each heavy shiny cloth-backed 'paper' page covering a few blocks' area (double-quarter sections) with all the zoning classification areas on all of the pages colored in by hand with wax crayons. I actually helped the city for a few weeks back in my early high school days by coloring in some of the pages.



    Mike

  12. #12
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    20 years ago I worked in a campus planning firm
    • I was getting high on toxic markers coloring maps
    • Each map was an original drawn and colored by hand and we used to photograph them for our records (photo shoot day always included a beer in hand that was always in the office refrigerator) - I have days when i miss drafting
    • The wooden cabinet that also housed chemicals was our fire storage of the slides
    • Our reports were physically set on thick stock paper with hot wax (also used for office hijinx) and then sent out for printing
    • We used photographs of site to make scaled maps of campuses and to save money, we used black and white film (I wish I confiscated some of those)
    • We had a lot of fun at work - I never had a better time at a job - I was devastated when they laid us all off, one by one when the recession finally caught up to us and we had no work (hence the term "hey, look billable")

    I also remember drafting on linen, I am sure others can top that...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Man, y'all are old.


    ducks and runs...
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  14. #14
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    7 years ago when I started at City Hall....
    • I had no internet access (mainly because IT director had a prehistoric mentality)
    • I had a giant color monitor that took up half the the desk top (these flat screen monitors rock)
    • I had a color printer that was really slow.
    • I had...um.....to use ArcView 3.1.......
    Yeah, yous guys are old!
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    ArcView? What was THAT?

    I seem to remember some other GIS company had some market share in the 1990's... Who was that?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Before GIS & large color printers (36" wide),
    for printing a color map we had color seperation sheets with registration pins and tabs
    that were hand done using stickon lettering, tape (both in widths & patterns) and ink.

    And Yes I am that old !
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Summer 1990, did my mandatory internship for an actual architect.


    -Took a long time to find the internship, effects of the S&L crisis of 89 were in full swing, worked for 5.00 an hour, was happy with it.

    -Small office, all hand drawn no computer in the whole office.

    -Plastic lead on mylar, I ruined more than 1 sheet with electric eraser.

    -Shared fax machine with the lawyers next door, we used their copier

    -Made a lot of copies, hot lawyer intern wanted nothing to do with me… com’on I’m an architect

    -Simple room addition took 4 weeks, had to ask what a schedule was, boss shook his head. Today I could do the same work in about 3 days.

    -Ran prints on ammonia print machine, gave me headaches, paper cuts from expensive print paper.

    -Other intern was cool chick from U of Illinois, always wondered what happened to her.

    -Iraq invaded Kuwait at the end of the summer, boss said it was a ploy that would blow over.

    -Had to wear a tie every day, I only had 3 ties.

    -Was called “tie boy” by GC on site

    -Internship lasted 8 weeks, seemed like an enternity, honestly asked myself at the end if it was something I really wanted to do… answer was no...
    She has been a bad girl, she is like a chemical, though you try and stop it she is like a narcotic.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    ArcView? What was THAT?

    I seem to remember some other GIS company had some market share in the 1990's... Who was that?
    Map Info was the name of thw company as I recall. Since I'm one of the geezers on board, I'll make my contributions. We just got our computers-individual stand alone units-not networked-with word perfect and Lotus 1-2-3. We had a draftsman who did all the county zoning maps. GIS would not come for another 3-4 years. We did have a copier. No cell phones-we used a radio in the car that was tied in with the building department.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    ArcView? What was THAT?

    I seem to remember some other GIS company had some market share in the 1990's... Who was that?
    Intergraph was another GIS company

    Comgrafix was a GIS system for use on MacIntosh Computer
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    20 years ago...

    ...I was 12.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    20 years ago...

    Quote Originally posted by Rygor View post
    ...I was 12.
    I was 9... does choose your own adventure books count?
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I remember 3 GIS programs back then- ArcView, MapInfo and Atlas GIS.

    I remember a lot of faxes on heat-senstitive curly paper. Some basic email but not much. I worked at a "newfangled" electronic news service at the time and we uploaded our publication onto an ftp site every day that subscribers had the password to.

    We had WordPerfect on our PC's - no Windows. But in many ways things were more similar to today than you would think, since at least we all had our own computers and voicemail.

    Now in 1998 when I got my first local planning job, that was like going back in time. Managers smoked (and probably drank) in their offices. No email (that was "unsecure"). No voice mail (that was "impersonal"- as an aside I think the City of Boston still has that rule.) All the stock games that came with Windows were deleted by IT so they didn't "distract" us from working.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    ...Our reports were physically set on thick stock paper with hot wax (also used for office hijinx) and then sent out for printing ...
    I spent many years in publishing (managing editor for a couple of magazines, then lots of freelancing) and this brings back a ton of memories.
    Copy (the words to be published) was created on the typewriter or longhand. I working on some tough paragraphs: typed them up, then cut the sentences apart and re-arranged them on the surface of my desk.
    Probably assembled them with clear tape. No glue sticks or Post-its early on.

    The finished copy would be marked up with point sizes, leading (the height between lines), column width, other specifications. Once spec'ed ("specked"), it'd get walked over to the typesetter (a person working at the typesetting machine) who would re-keyboard the text. Once she (usually) had completed a stack of copy, she'd hit print, and the text would eventually feed out on photo-sensitive paper into a light-proof canister. Followed by chemical processing.

    We'd keep careful track of when the chemicals were changed. Sometimes a set of fresh corrections would look very different from the originals, and we'd have to tweak things.

    Finished type was on curly rolls of photo paper. Thence to the art director, who'd trim off the extra margins with scissors.

    Is the waxer hot? Did you turn on the waxer? It took about 15 minutes to heat up. For a long time we used a hand-held. Lay the strips of paper out upside-down, apply the hot wax to the reverse side. Eventually we upgraded to an autofed wax machine.

    Let them cool a few seconds, then lay out onto composition boards. These were actual size of the magazine pages. Line break decisions were not easily changed.

    ...and then we get into proof-reading and corrections and photo layouts and color spec'ing** and losing little pieces on the floor (never ever empty the trash until the job is on its way out the door) and making back-up photocopies of the finished boards...

    **Googled this term, and found this blog with a blast from the past.

    I sometimes use these ancient skills when the local newspaper prints an article and I want it to fit a different format (e.g. all on one letter-sized sheet).

    Planning content: some years back I was strolling the hallway at my alma mater, and discovered that the planning program now included a Pagemaker class. The bulletin board examples were of DDA-style tourism brochures, created by students.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    20 years ago I worked at Taco Bell. Not much changed. I did enjoy the old pressure cooked beans and whipping out a power drill with a paint whip to mix 'em up.

    During my fun years drafting, I did some work with the old diazo (those suck) and kept my kohinor pencils and pen set with all the different line weights.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    You guys really are old!

    20 years ago, I was three...watching Shining Time Station, Seasame Street, and Mr. Rogers in the morning, eating lunch and watching either All My Children with my mom or the WGN news at Noon with my Grandma, playing games and taking naps in the afternoon, and reading books and taking baths after dinner. I started drawing maps and creating fake cities not long after.

    I remember going through files from this time period during my recent planning internship and getting rid of documents our village manager had that the planners already had, and it was always fun to look at the old typewritten formats, the cursive comments, and so forth, as well as how drastically different this town was back then, even compared to, say, 1996 and after.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

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