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Traders Doing Business at the Coal Exchange, London; 1890

Last week, the City experienced a week long shut down of the internal computer system. IT personnel were living on caffeine and pills, working multiple days without sleep to rectify the problem. It affected the library directly for three days, but other departments were at a stand still for a solid seven days. No access to the City hard drive, or staff personal drive, nor City email was available. Gaaaah! Luckily we had internet, but there is only so much we could do. And by “so much,” I mean it was very little. Needless to say, the City is rushing to make up for lost time.

Prior to the internet, what would cause business to shut down? In the 19th century, it was most likely weather; that would hinder the post. The telegraph could jam. New fangled machinery could seize up. Plague could sweep the country. Staff could up and die for a variety of reasons. Horses; fall into the same category. Trains derailed or halted. Or horror of all horrors, the inkwell could run dry! Could you imagine?! Surely, before the telegraph, a bent nib or empty inkwell must have been a special circle of hell for business men.

Then again, yester-year’s business was not as rapid as today’s ever changing environment. People expected a delay, lag, or an enormous about of time to elapse between long distance decisions. This is precisely why, business was “local.” It had to be out of necessity to get anything done. The mere thought of a national industry or international industry was beyond overwhelming! Obviously such trade and industry existed, but so limited were the numbers in that particular echelon, that it seems unfathomable how one could truly oversee such an endeavor. A serious about of trust must was required of the “corporate executive officer” and his immediate subordinates.

It just all makes we wonder . . . In some ways, I am nostalgic for the past, in others, I am so incredibly thankful to be living in the 21st century.

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