Written on April 11, 2012 at 10:04 am, by Concur
It’s hard to imagine, but business travel came into its own 30 years ago the old-fashioned way: with typewriters, pay phones and analog clocks. But there were no fare compare websites, flight status text messages or smartphones to check your email in the 1980s – there was no email.
This year, Concur will pay homage to all those skinny ties at Fusion, our premier client event, thanks to our Totally Awesome '80s Party, featuring geeky cover band the Spazmatics. To get the party started early, we thought we’d open a business travel time capsule of sorts.
Crank up the Cyndi Lauper tape in your Walkman, and grab your Rubik’s Cube – let’s see just how far business travel has come in the decade that defined it:
Smokes on a plane. Once upon a time, you could smoke anywhere – restaurants, office buildings, bathrooms, boardrooms. Just imagine a transcontinental flight with chain-smoking stewardesses. Years before the ban, airlines didn’t just tolerate cigarette smokers – they embraced them. Most planes had smoking sections in coach, usually encircled by a curtain to, you know, keep the second-hand smoke from drifting in the cabin. Relics from the era still remain – ever notice the “No Smoking” icon light up overhead? Once upon a time, it served a purpose.
She’s a brick… phone. Travelers used a cordless touchtone phone unless they were successful enough to own a state-of-the-art Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the world’s first commercial handheld cell phone. It weighed two pounds, offered a half-hour of talk time per recharge (which took 10 hours), and sold for a whopping $3,995. DynaTac 8000X and its cumbersome cousins are now listed as “vintage” on eBay.
Piles of paper and no recycling bin. Get out a paper and pen, and set aside a week or two – you would need it in the 80s when all expense reporting was done on slips of paper. Travelers filled out a report matrix in ink, attached receipts and handed it back to the boss for approval. It was processed and stamped, and more paper was generated when the business office cut a paper reimbursement check. Everything was done by hand, stored in bursting cabinets and took hours, days or weeks.
Let me talk to my agent. Forget booking air, hotels or cars on your own. In the 1980s, travel agents were king, and so were the paper tickets they sold. Expect a top copy, a carbon copy, a business office copy, a federal tax copy… basically a mound of copies for reference. Happy shredding.
Clouds are for weather. The only cloud 30 years ago was the one you flew through during some turbulence. It was the age of the DOS prompt. Command line programming was at its infancy. Software was served up on floppy disks, and lots of them. Installing a program could take a few hours of religious devotion to your computer, feeding the next disk (out of 20) when prompted. It only took a few days. If you were lucky.
No shoes, no security, no problem. Thirty years ago, your business partner could meet you at the gate, you could carry on a full bottle of shampoo, and no one asked you to take off your penny loafers or step through a full-body scanner. Granted, you had to physically show up to know your flight was on time, and frequent flier miles didn’t even exist. But you were guaranteed a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the sky – free of charge. How times have changed.