George Walford: The End of Work (7)

London’s buses and underground trains are to have computerised ticket machines; experience suggests it will take a while to get the bugs out of these. Several years ago buses were introduced which had automatic ticket machines instead of conductors. Some of them worked properly; the others – well, we ourselves hit the jackpot once, but the driver was watching. Our local tube station has barriers which open when a ticket bought from a machine is fed into a slot; fortunately a hearty push gets one through when they fail to open as they should. But doubtless computers will deal with all that the point of this piece is that about 3,500 ticket collectors will no longer be needed and 6,500 bus-conductors may also become redundant. (And that use of ‘may’ instead of ‘will’ suggests a journalist whose kindheartedness has overcome his concern with the facts) (Sunday Times, 21 April 85).

Computers are coming to do much more than computing. They are also being used instead of human workers for inspection of manufactures; it is expected that in the USA 90 per cent of this work will be done by computers by the early 1990s. (Sunday Times 21 June 85)

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THE LAST DIRTY JOKE: It is not only the routine jobs that are being eliminated. A computer programme has now been released that enables a salesperson working with a telephone to replace a number of commercial travellers. (Sunday Times 18 Aug 85)

from Ideological Commentary 20, September 1985.