Effects of Modern Technology on the Secretarial Profession

Effects of Modern Technology on the Secretarial Profession

The review of literature will be treated in the following five perspectives:

  1. What Technology is and History Definition of Secretary.
  2. Office equipment and their importance.
  3. Documented interviews/The Secretary is invaluable
  4. Technology and its effect on secretarial profession
  5. Prospects of Secretaries.

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What Technology is?

A.S Hornby in his book, Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, defines Technology as the study, mastery and utilization of manufacturing and industrial methods, systematic application of knowledge to practical task in industry.

The definition above gives clear description of technology as the application of scientific approach to industrial problems while improvement in materials, machines, men and methods that result from these is known as technological advancement.  And this is applicable in various fields of which secretarial profession is not an exception.

In those days, most office works were done manually but today industrial revolution has brought many sophisticated machines to supplement manual labour.  This new innovation no doubt increases demand for the office equipment. Every business venture in the world today wants to be efficient and increase its productivity through the use of modern equipment.  Manual jobs are laborious that it weaken s workers thereby bringing low productivity.  The expansion of works and offices also brought about these new technological equipments. Many machines and equipment manufactured to be used in different activities in the office, so there was the need for these newly introduced office equipment that can cope with the increased voluminous data in the office but with the aid of a skilled person such as the secretary.

All these led to the invention of office equipment and machines like computers, word-processors, duplicating machines, electronic typewriters, punch-card machines, accounting machines, addressing machines, typesetting, and binding machines, to assist the secretaries immensely in performing their duties in the office.  But it should be noted however that a considerable amount of office work is still accomplished manually by the secretaries.


Colins gem (1977) defines technology as “the application of practical, mechanical science to industry, commerce, technical method, skills and knowledge.  It can also be referred to as the invention and discoveries of man since the beginning of time, which had made life easier, work less tedious and leisure more enjoyable.

The history of technology is the history of the evolution of man.  The history of man’s tools is divided into three (3) stages:

  1. Stone Age (3,000 BC)
  2. Medieval Age (500-1,500 AD)
  3. Modern Age (1,500 AD – till date).


This period is divided into Paleolithic period or Old Stone Age.  This is the period when man lived on hunting and food gathering.

The second is the Neolithic Age or the new Stone Age.  This period is marked by technological mastery.  The Neolithic man was found man moving from the hunting to farming and domesticating animals.  Once agriculture was established, man began food storage and preservation technology.


This was a period of development when man discovered the use of fuel and coal in technology.  The Europeans benefited a lot from the idea that came from the middle and Far East.  Examples of these benefits are:

  1. Printing which the Koreans and Chinese invented was revolutionaries in 1445 by Guttenberg, a German when he invented the letter type.
  2. The making of high quality glass and art of distillation began from the Islamic world but the Europeans perfected the art.
  3. The invention of horseshoe by the Europeans changed a house from a beast of burden to a source of power both in peacetime and the war.

Towards the end of this period, techniques of shipbuilding and Navigating were perfected and the Europeans began to travel the world.


This was a period of renaissance.  It was a time of great artists- Van Groughy, Leonardo Da Vinchi, Mozart etc.  It was also a time of scientific revolution – Newton and his Law of Gravioty, and theory of relativity, invention of the radio etc.  It was the time ideas and techniques went from South to North and across the Atlantic.  There was also the industrial Revolution, which contributed immensely to the growth of Technology.  The modern age of technology is divided into four stages:

  1. Modern Craft Age
  2. Machine Age
  3. Power Age
  4. Atomic Age.


The industrial technology started around 1915. One of the earliest inventions is the knitting machine invented by Rev. William Lee in 1589.  This was a remarkable achievement considering the great complexity of the operations the machine must perform.  Though not fully automatic, the knitting machine even in its earliest form was considered more than any other modern machines, which today perform very complex operations without human interference except in feeling and maintenance.

Following this invention, research continues and office machines including typewriter, computers, telephone and other industrial machines were invented up to this day.

The earliest typewriter was invented in 1843, but the modern typewriter derives its features from those produced in 1867.  Remington Company sold the first model of his design in 1874 at $125 (about 125).
The first calculating machine dates back to 1937 and was invented by Howard H. Aiken of HAVARD University. The Aiken’s, machine – Automatic sequence controlled calculator began work in April 1944, it could calculate in half a minute a ballistic table that formally needed 20 hours and could also do 5,000 addition in a second.

The first modern computer was EDSAC built by a team led by M.N. MILKES in Cambridge, England, which did its fully automatic calculation in May 1949.  The J-LYONS AND Company built the first computer for data and information processing in 1953.  The computer is capable of accepting facts of any type provided they can be precisely sort them out, deduce their logical sequence, and present the result in any convenient form that may be specified.  The LEO (Lyon Election Office) is the “root” for word-processors.

The first of word-processors was invented in the early 60’s by L.E.O.  It was studied and those features that were useful to the secretarial staff was assembled and incorporated in the word-processor.  The first features include automatic spacing, adjusting the length of line and hyphenating words that must be split (doing so according to agreed conventions as to where hyphen should be placed) also while a copy is being typed, it is simultaneously prepared on a punched tape.  The word-processor and also make corrections and edit a text and can print up to 12,000 lines per hour.

The historical role of technological revolution has been to transform a world of universal scarcity into a world abundance for all science tells us that there is no end to discoveries and hence to the extension of man’s control over nature.

We still expect greater revolution in a field of Industrial Technology, particularly invention of new office machines.  We still hope that the continued inventions will always have a positive effect it has had and is still having on the secretarial profession at this present time.


A secretary is an “Executive Assistant, who possesses a mastery of office skills, who demonstrates the ability to assume responsibility without direct supervision, who exercise initiatives, judgment and who makes decision within the scope of her assigned authority”.

Elizabeth Pyres (1983) inferred that: “in the past, the word ‘secretary’ was understood to mean someone, usually female who took down notes and correspondence for male executives and managers in shorthand, and then transcribes them back on a typewriter.  In the very early days, after the machine was invented, a woman who could use one was herself called a ‘typewriter’.  The word secretary was also often the synonym for the female who organized and ran a small office for the employer.

Roman (1995), in his own view, further said that; “The perfect secretary requires to posses all the virtues and non of the vices, she must be a seer and a psychologist with working, knowledge of al the process of the firm for which she works and all the office tasks, must be mentally equipped to tackle any situation that may arise in the absence of the boss, must be able to anticipate his reaction in any given situation, must interpret his mind, and act for him and, in short, can make herself a jewel among employees.

He Oxford Dictionary defines a secretary as “one who writes for another, especially of employed to conduct correspondence, keeps record of the company and transacts other businesses”.

From the above definitions, it can be concluded that the secretary though not the most prominent officer is the most necessary because she is the pivot on which the wheel of secretarial activities rotates.  Without the secretary nothing, gets done effectively in the office.  She is regarded as the servant of the company.  She attends to routine duties of office administration, writes letters, reports proceedings and minutes of meetings.

She doe she filing of various documents that form part of company’s routine.  So, while the directors are the brains of the company, the secretary is its ears, eyes and hands.

Finally, the modern secretary is a professional who could perform all the clerical duties in an office which the newly introduced machines cannot do, unless with the help of the secretary.


Lilley (1974) said; “we are now experiencing the uniqueness of a time – the prospect that the really constructive and creative period of human history brings.  All new development that are to become available to us, the task of providing material goods and more advanced machines in all aspects of the human life will have an impact on every person’s life”.

Business faces obstacles while pursuing, its goal and these may be either internally or externally.  Internally, a business may face such obstacles as time being limited for a particular job.  Also, personnel and physical  capacities of equipment may be inadequate.  And externally, there may be tough competition or dependence on other business, which may cause failure or attainment of the organizations goals.

From the beginning of human life, human slavery or the enforced labor of the people had been the source of the production that has sustained the various past civilizations in history.  Now, however, man-made machines and the harnessing of natural resources is progressively improved opportunity for the development of mind and spirit.  This is a challenging opportunity, which in a nutshell can be referred to as an advancement of technology.  Technology therefore is said to enhance the work of the secretary rather than causing unemployment.

Cambridge Training Association (1997) said; “the work of the office stays the  same but the way it  is carried out is changing fast.  Electronic aids are not so much causing unemployment in offices as redefining traditional rules.  Often, they expand the range of skilled and the duties office worker have.Though, some features of the secretarial work are still the same, eg. Routine typing, a; day, retyping a take over and over again etc.  Sorting of mails by hand are being taken over by machine and new features like editing skills.

There are various office machines, which the secretary can use directly or come into contact with  in the course of he work.  These machines aid the secretary in doing her job and also make her more efficient and productive.  All may not  be full treated in this study but some will be discussed in detail and the other mentioned and discussed briefly.


In all electric typewriters, the features normally operated by the typist are electrically controlled.  The electrically- operated actions enables operators to type with very little physical effort and with much less fatigue than with the manually operated typewriters. As a result of the reduced physical effort involved in operating electric typewrite, operators are able to type quickly for much longer periods than are possible on the manual machines.

From the secretary’s handbook (1987), we read that there are new additional features to electric typewriter now more than ever, and this makes the Electric Typewriter an important asset of any organization.  The additional features include storing of pages of document and reproducing them immediately or at a later date when it is required.

Some electric typewrite also have inbuilt dictionary; this means that whenever a wrong word or letter is typed, the typewriter beams and refuses to move, unless the correct key is depressed.  After the depression of the key, the machine automatically type out the correct word.  All the foregoing4 makes the machines very useful and the Electric Typewriter makes less noise than the manual typewriters.


  1. It is less tiring to operate.
  2. It can produce copies in the original form.
  3. Information can be stored in a machine storage system
  4. Most of the Electric Typewriter is fixed with automatic eraser key which cleans up automatic eraser key, which cleans up any mistake made while typing, this in turn makes the finished work very neat.


This machine uses a process whereby heat and not light is used in photocopying process.  This is also known as inferred process.  This is simple and quicker than the reflex and dyeline photocopying process as original and copy paper pass through the machine only once.  It is simply a matter of placing them together under lid (or cover) of the machine, closing down the lid and switching on the automatic time setting switch.  An inferred lamp within the machine emits heat, which is reflected back by the light areas of the original but absorbed by the dark areas.  The heat-sensitive coating, of the copy paper darkened in those places where it comes into contact with the darkened areas of the original and thus produces the required copy.  After an exposure of about four seconds, original copy may be removed quite dry and real for use. The machine has a setting knob on its side, which is used to set the number of copies required at anytime (provided the copy is not more than ten).  Document sizes can be enlarged or reduced on this machine to suit the requirement of the user.


  1. It reproduces copies at top speeds.
  2. There is no need for development
  3. Paper sizes can be enlarged or reduced to suit user’/s requirement.


According to Leafe (1989) in her book Cassell’s Office Practice Hand book, “It is a new piece of equipment which is gradually making an appearance in offices these days.  It enables copy to be made of a document, but in this case, the document is placed on one machine and a copy transmitted to a similar machine which may be many miles away’.


The telephone dialed network is used for the immediate method of sending printed or graphic information between any two points which are connected by the normal  telephone system.

The distance involved makes no difference to the speed of transmission.  It can be used as a method of communication between head office and branch.  It can bus used as a method of communication between head office and branch.  It can be used as a method of communication between head office and branch.  It can also be used between branches both national and international.   When sending a message with this equipment, the origin-typewriting document is simply fed into the machine and other will party will be telephoned.  When the other party is ready to receive, a red button will be passed on the machine.

However, to receive a message with this equipment, as ordinary sheet of paper is placed on the machine, the recipient presses the green button and within minutes, a clear facsimiles available regardless of distance.


  1. It provides the opportunity of sending a facsimile copy of document to other places without using the post.
  2. Its operation is simple
  3. It is cheaper than telex if messages need to be transmitted.


          The word processing machine is a fast, efficient and simple means of preparing typed letters and documents.  It allows the text to be typed, modified, re-arranged, printed and even transmitted over the telephone lines with ease.  All modification is done on the screen.  Both the secretary and executive benefits from this system because of the ease of operation and the time it saves.  The result is better quality material at low cost.

IBM developed the first system that incorporated many methods of text correction or modification.  In the 1960’s they introduced the MT 72 which could re-arrange sentences and paragraphs an automatically inset names and addresses into letters.   Storage was on magnetic type; better but still with limitations.

About the same time, microcomputers were being developed for business use.  Word Processing was on of the programmers wrtieen for them.

From the Secretary and Management Magazine (1991), we read that producing a text on a typewriter and are laborious.  If you decide to change a sentence, the letter or document must be re-typed.  A single spelling, mistake can negate half an hour’s work.  Drafts of long documents may need to be re-typed three to four times often up to a week’s work. If the original typing is done on a top, the computer can store it.  When changes are required, the text can be recalled to the screen, the changes made with a few simple keystrokes and the document either printed or shored again.  The process can be repeated as many times as is necessary.   Printed copies may be made at any time but often reviewing the text on the screen is sufficient to locate errors.  The cost effectiveness of this is obvious.  Laboir cost is dramatically reduced.  So is tedium and frustration of the secretary.


          This provides a useful service.  The answering set is connected to the telephone and is about take in-coming calls while that telephone of left unattended to.  It will then answer the caller using a tape-recorded message and record only statement made by the caller in reply.


          Dictating or recording machines use either a non-magnetic medium, similar to a gramophones record for permanent recording of information, or a magnetic system for temporary recordings.  The magnetic medium is more widely used than the non-magnetic one because when a recording has served its purpose, re-recording over it can erase it.

The transcription of dictated information is done on the typewriter.  The secretary or typist wears earphones and types directly from information passed into the ear from the machine.


According to Austin, it may be electrically or manually operated, and it consists of a number of slots into which the sheets are placed in the required sequence.

When the machine is operated, each slot releases one sheet and these sheets either drop sown in the correct order into a receiving try or pop-up ready for collection in the correct order, according to the type of machine.  The advantage is of course speed of operation; some machines can collect up to 15,000 sheets per hour.


According to Ani her handout on data processing defined computer as an electric tool capable of accepting, data ,and interpreting data performed ordered operation on data, and reporting  on the outcome of these operation.  She further said that it is a tool managers can use to assist in the complicated and time-consuming task of generating information.  Also, she said it is and information processing machine.

One of the disadvantages is that computers are not self-directed.  A computer is only capable of following precise and detailed instruction provided by the computer user.  This means that the computer cannot operate itself.   Whitehead remarked that a computer system is made up of several inter-related machines.  At the center of it all is the computer itself, sometimes called CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT (CPU) – next comes the PERIPHERIAL EQUIPMENT?  There are the machine and mechanical device , which are attached directly to the CPT and are used by the CPU as though they were part of it. There are three main groups of computer equipment.  These are;

  1. Input Device
  2. Output device
  3. Memory unit


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