Before computers and the internet, what did you do during down time at work?

At my job, I sometimes go hours without having any work to do, such as right now. Every once in a while I go almost an entire day without having any work. I usually occupy my time by surfing the internet, browsing the dope, etc.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to sit through these long, workless hours before the advent of the internet. Even with the internet I get sort of bored. What did you do? Read the newspaper? Talk to coworkers? Zone out?

I don’t have Internet in my, very quiet, workplace. I read a lot, sometimes play guitar, read newspapers, do crosswords, clean the place (rarely! :slight_smile: ), rearrange stock, talk to myself, fall asleep, look out the window. There’s plenty to do.

Well, if Mad Men is to believed, in the early '60s down time was spent in three-martini lunches and in trying to shtup the secretary. More interesting than hitting F5 on CNN, I suppose.

When I worked as a waitress, during down times we would clean, wrap silverware, cut fudge cake or make & cut strawberry pies. I remember using a toothbrush or toothpick to scour out crevices in the stainless steel counters.

When I was a student, if I had down time at work (work-study jobs) I would study or do homework.

Since graduating college, I’ve not had a job with downtime like that.

I recall that other people with down time would work crossword puzzles, knit or crochet, talk to coworkers, read, talk on the phone, or even nap.

Hang around the water cooler.
Make sexist comments about the secretarial pool.
Talk about sports.
Tell racist jokes.
Knock back a little scotch and read the newspaper.

Read books
Do word puzzles
Walk around
Talk to people
Play cards

It’s not like any jobs I had ever had any down time. The above were more a break or lunch activity. You were expected to clean, fix stuff or help other people if you currently were caught up on your duties.

When I was a young’en it was in the pre-computer days, much less the Internet. We spent our downtime filing. When computers made most filing obsolete we did some cleanup, routine maintenance, etc.

Later on, when I had gotten to the point where the minions did those tasks, I switrched to reading and annoying my co-workers with incessant chatter.

I had a job as a computer operater about a decade or so ago. Part of the job was running the back-ups, which pretty much took up half a shift. There was literally nothing that could be done (outside of cleaning shit up around the office) while the back-ups were running. My boss specifically told me, “you might want to bring in a book.”

I must have read 100 books a year back then.

Then there was the, “we need you to come in on Saturday and babysit the software update.” That consisted of coming into work and hoping an error message didn’t come up (which it never did). I used to bring in my Playstation and hook it up in one of the conference rooms.

I was never in a completely non-computer work environment. Computers may have been much more primitive and there certainly was no Internet in the early days. But I was able to still do interesting things with my basic computing tools, such as writing useful programs for myself. Then, of course, there were crosswords (no Sudoku yet!), other puzzles (particularly the logical variety), newspapers and magazines to kill time. And certainly there was also general boredom. Fortunately for me, down times have been extremely rare in my career.

I have to to agree with this 100%. When I worked in hotels back in the 80s, every bit of downtime was spent, organizing the registration cards of people who checked out, getting the credit credit receipts in order, in case there was a chargeback, filing past reservations, getting the phone logs in order.

I remember one summer day I was scheduled at the front desk with another desk clerk Renee, and no one showed up, for hours, which was so unusual, so she pulled her car up to the front area and started to wash her car.

Too funny was Dean, the regional director of the hotels for Chicago, showed up and she was washing her car. I gotta give Renee credit, she said “Hi, Dean,” and kept washing the car.

I recall later on I asked her about it and she said, “What was I supposed to do Mark? I was goofing off washing my car? He saw it, am I supposed to drop everything and run back in and pretend like I was working?”

She had nerve and oddly she never did get in trouble for that.

Talked crap with my coworkers.

Read books hidden in my desk drawer.

Crawled under my desk and went to sleep.

Wrote a novel.

I worked at a newspaper, so I read the newspaper, looking for mistakes. Then I read other newspapers, looking for what they had and we didn’t, and laughing at their mistakes.

Also, reading books and doing crosswords.

I remember several computer games from the late-80s-early 90s (basically post-computer, pre-internet era in the workplace) that actually came with a “boss button” that would pop up a screen that looked like a half filled spreadsheet, in case your boss walked by while you were playing.

The “Klondike” solitare game I had for my early-90s Mac Classic definitely had such a button.

For PC users, there was always minesweeper!

People also used to xerox funny stuff and cartoons and pass it around, like the analog equivalent of humor forwards on email.

I worked as a gofer/assistant in a office when I was in high school where a snack cart came around at 3pm - virtually everyone would take the opportunity to stand around snacking and gossiping for 20 minutes.

I saw a cartoon that showed three secretaries playing solitaire on a table. (each playing their own hand).

One of the secretaries is on the phone saying. “The computers are down, and we have to do everything by hand.”

For me, these would be mostly internships and summer temp jobs I had in college in the early 90s. Activities would include:

-Exploring the office park / warehouse / manufacturing plant
-Skimming through trade publications or whatever other literature was left lying around
-Chat with whomever I was friendly with
-Stare out the window for hours
-Read a book I brought from home
-Those mines aren’t going to sweep themselves

Bottom line is back in the old days, there really wasn’t a lot to do during downtime. It was pretty boring.

Read, write, and socialize.

“If you have time to lean, you have time to clean!”

I started off in the urban planning field during the PC-but-pre-Internet era. When things were slow, we went into the “field”; basically, drive around and check out construction sites, future development sites, look for zoning code violations we might want to tell the code enforcement officers about, and so on.

Surprised nobody mentioned what the smokers did. Very frequent smoke breaks were the norm for some; if you were a pack-a-day smoker, you were outside or in a smoker’s lounge at least twice an hour.

Moving to IMHO from GQ.

General Questions Moderator

I’d make fantasy lists:

If I gave a ultra fancy dinner party, what would the menu be?

If I could tour the world, what would my itinerary be?

If I had a time machine, when and where would I go?

That sort of thing. The best part is while writing all this down, you still look busy.

Sex mostly.