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Time was, one of the biggest L&D brands was a long-vanished enterprise called the Katherine Gibbs school. What it taught: the hugely in-demand skill of working the world’s most valuable piece of information technology, the manual typewriter—a technology that arguably hit its peak in 1975 with the Smith Corona Super 5-Series portable electric typewriters, famed for being quiet, efficient, and fast. But 1975, as we hear in this latest episode in ‘Season Eight,’ where we’re ‘Connecting The Dots’ to form a picture of what we’ve learned in 18 months of our investigation into the future of Workplace Learning, was also the year that the company behind that awesome machine and the subject of all the hard training at the Gibbs schools went bust. 1975 was also the year two kids surnamed Gates and Allen teamed up to start a company called Microsoft, that 6 years later would release its first ever stab at word processing software.
So in this episode, it’s a lot of déjà vu; we replay how some once-invisible industries crumble, how once-ubiquitous careers (membership in the company typing pool) can vanish, and how skills that once seemed really worth learning (transcription and stenography) can become worthless almost overnight. Along the way, we meet some interesting historical characters, but end with a really challenging proposition: what if we’re seeing very similar patterns, where we’re teaching stuff that in a few short years no-one will need to know… and we might be calling it computer programming right now?
Here is a list of all the sound clips, related videos, and audio interview excerpts in today’s show:
Data cited on the percentage of women working in technology
Data on women in typing
More on the Katharine Gibbs phenomenon and the bankruptcy of Smith Corona Bankruptcy and a C-Span clip of its baffled CEO Lee Thompson talking to Congress
Gloria Steinem telling women to avoid the career trap of learning to type
Information about Learning Futurist Jay Cross
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