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illustration showing the evolving office setting, from a cubicle to remote working

The Evolution of Office Technology, from the 90s to Now

  • 4 min read

New technology has driven a host of dramatic changes to our working lives since the 1990s, when data protection rules were first introduced for UK businesses.

With the introduction of new security and data privacy legislation, we've taken a look at how new technology in the workplace has changed the way the typical office operates since the 1990s.

The Evolution of the Office Computer

computers

In the early 90s, the average office computer might typically have 4MB of memory, cost an eye-watering £5,900 and run the very latest operating system – Windows 3.

To put that into context, 4MB is about the size of a single MP3 file!

Today’s desktop computers are more than 2,000 times more powerful than those in the early 90s and cost less than a tenth of the price. That’s not to mention the transformation in the way we use computers, with portable and handheld touchscreen devices taking computing out of the office.

Of course, a fundamental difference between the office computer of the 90s and today is the introduction of the internet. However, along with the many benefits it has delivered, new risks have been created, fuelling explosive growth in the cybersecurity industry.

The Evolution of Office Communication

communication

Tim Berners-Lee developed the technology that enabled email and web browsing by 1990, but it was still far from commonplace in UK offices, being predominantly used to connect laboratories engaged in government research.

Today, 51% of the global population regularly use the internet, but in 1995, that figure was just 0.4%.

The height of communication technology back then was the fax machine, while the first brick-sized mobile phones were starting to become more widely adopted.

The era of fax machines came to an end with the rise of email which remains the most used communication platform for business today. However, more recently, instant and group messaging platforms like Slack and Workplace by Facebook have become popular, with features designed to facilitate efficient collaboration.

The Evolution of Digital File Storage

digital-storage

Digitally storing large amounts of data in the 90s typically meant transferring it to some kind of disk or even tape. There were many different competing formats that emerged during the decade, which are now largely obsolete.

Further breakthroughs including hard disk drives and solid state disks with no moving parts provided ever bigger amounts of storage throughout the decade.

By the 2000s, on-site servers began to be replaced by cloud storage, driven by a need both for off-site accessibility and disaster preparedness.

The Evolution of Search

search

“Google it” is now such a ubiquitous term that it even appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, but back in the 90s, searching for information could be far more time consuming.

If data was stored digitally in the 90s, it was likely to be on physical formats like discs or tapes because of the limitations of the computers of the time.

Today, smartphones and 4G data networks mean we all have the power to search vast resources of data while on the go, and can even browse the net using voice commands.

The Evolution of Secure Document Management

documents

In the 90s, for most offices document management is likely to have meant just one thing – paper, and plenty of it!

Finding the right document might mean hours of painstaking searching through racks of files in dusty basements.

Indeed, paper use actually doubled between 1980 and 1995 because of the rise of affordable laser printing.

During the 2000s, the rise of secure digital storage saw paper use fall, while the ability to search documents electronically meant the right file was easy to find. Although paper documents still feature in many processes today, the benefits of digitisation mean that efficient scanning technology has become key for many businesses.

With GDPR just around the corner, what better time to review your document management system? Find out how our latest scanners can help you digitise to work more securely and efficiently here.

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