Now before you panic, there will be no great academic analysis by an outstanding historian of messaging services and / or technology! It is a easy-going and affectionate walk through the early technology that came to transport and related industries back in the 1960s and 70s.
OK, technology did not start in the 60s and 70s. Even going back, transport and transport companies had things like telegram and phone to help them communicate. For those who think computers started with Bill Gates, were prepared for a shock. Computers were used in the industry when Gates was still in his stroller. However, it is probably fair to say that technology at the beginning of the 1960s was quite limited to the phone (often only available to directors and maybe department heads) and a massive mainframe computer that broke out the accounts. Contacting a courier driver? You had to hope they could find a public box and had a change. Are you trying to contact abroad? You had to ask the operator to join you and sometimes you had to make the call because all lines were busy.
By the late 1960s and early 70s, most courier and transport companies began to see technical changes. Copiers began to appear in special writing rooms in many offices. These were often co-operated with a very feared device called the Banda printer - something that looked like it had just traveled from Victorian Britain. The idea was that you could write a form and then print it many times with Banda - what happened in reality was that you and your papers were covered in ink and various forms of other liquids that used to go about its scary work.
Then it was the telex. A revolution in its day made it possible for you to write long documents (eg manifesto, collections, carnets, etc.) and convert them all to punches. When done, you just rang over the phone lines to another telex elsewhere in the world, fed your band through and hello presto! Your document is printed at the other end. In one way, it was a kind of cursor to the fax and worked well, except when it did not! Tape jams and crimes were common and physical fights broke out in some offices when one hour of tape production and typing went lost because someone believed or played coffee over the band before you had the chance to send it.
Oh yes, this period also saw the arrival of the first electronic mining calculators. Before that, the courier would simply be very good at arithmetic, use a slider rule or one of the phenomenal manual desktop counters that works by turning a handle in the side. So the arrival of the electronic calculator would have been good news and that was, except they were expensive and many companies could only afford one. No prizes to guess the early ones were often locked in the managers desk as a bonus and you had to ask their permission to use it.
The lady is not about to turn
During the 1970s and in the early 1980s it steadily improved, became smaller, more reliable and less messy. They also got cheaper and meant that most people started accessing things like counters, copiers, and even began to have their own phone handset on their desk. The very early office computers and computers began to come, typewriters provided space for word processors and computers, and in the early 1980s, the usual office did not look much different from the office today. There was an exception but - the courier or the driver.
Not much had changed within 20 years. Many offices still sound on the cry, I do not know where he is! or why did not he call? The biggest difference to say, the beginning of the 1970s was that in the 1980s there were no more public telephone boxes that made it even harder to contact someone on the way. Since the mid-1980s, the first mobile phones arrived. Okay, they were laughing big and heavy according to current standards but they simply transformed the transport world.
For the first time, excluding a relatively small amount of radio usage in advance, courier drivers and offices could talk to each other. Gone, well almost, where I do not know whats happening scream of senders and offices. Suddenly, at the office, you can get regular updates from your driver about the stationary traffic on the M6 around Birmingham.
Of course, it does not stop there and things like SATNAV, barcodes and auto-picking systems have all had a big impact, but no-one has perhaps had the same revolutionary effect as the 80s had to finally connect drivers to their offices. Of course, some individual couriers or drivers may regret the loss of freedom from the old days and they did not have any apologies for the event - maybe you might think, but we could not comment!