A Retrospective Look at How Businesses Used Technology in the 1980s vs Today


The 1980s was a time of great technological advancement, with the personal computer revolution taking the world by storm. But how did businesses leverage this technology in the 1980s, and how has that changed today? In this blog post, we will take a deep dive into how businesses used technology in the 1980s and compare it to the current landscape. From office productivity to customer service, the evolution of technology in the business world is a fascinating one. So let's take a trip down memory lane and see how far we've come.

The Personal Computer Revolution

The personal computer revolution of the 1980s brought about a major shift in the way businesses operated. Before this, computers were large, expensive, and largely confined to research institutions and government agencies. But with the advent of personal computers like the Commodore 64 and the IBM PC, businesses of all sizes were able to purchase and use computers for tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet creation, and even basic programming.

However, the personal computer revolution also brought about new challenges for businesses. For one, employees had to be trained on how to use these new machines, which could be a time-consuming and costly process. In addition, businesses had to invest in hardware and software, which could also be expensive. And with the constant evolution of technology, businesses had to constantly update their systems to keep up with the times.

The Birth of the Internet

While the internet as we know it today did not take off until the 1990s, the seeds were planted in the 1980s with the development of the first internet protocols. In the 1980s, businesses mainly used the internet for communication and information sharing, rather than for e-commerce or marketing purposes. Email and chat rooms were the main ways in which businesses communicated over the internet, and the first web browsers were developed in the late 1980s.

While the internet was still in its infancy in the 1980s, it was clear that it had the potential to revolutionize the way businesses operated. And as the internet continued to grow and evolve in the following decades, it became an integral part of the business world.


While the first email was sent in the 1970s, it wasn't until the 1980s that email became a common tool for business communication. Email allowed businesses to communicate with clients and colleagues quickly and easily, without the need for snail mail or faxing documents. Today, email is still a primary means of communication for businesses, but it has been greatly improved with the addition of features such as attachments and online calendars.

The Rise of Office Productivity Software

The personal computer revolution of the 1980s also brought about the development of office productivity software. Programs like Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint became the standard for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, respectively. These programs allowed businesses to create professional-looking materials quickly and easily, and they became essential tools for office workers.

In the 1980s, businesses had to purchase these programs and install them on individual computers, which could be costly. However, with the rise of cloud computing in the present day, businesses can now access office productivity software through the internet and pay for a subscription rather than a one-time purchase. This has made it easier and more cost-effective for businesses to use these programs.

The Emergence of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

In the 1980s, businesses relied on paper-based systems and manual processes to manage customer relationships. This meant that customer information was often scattered across different departments and it was difficult to get a holistic view of the customer. With the rise of computer technology in the 1980s, businesses began to develop software programs to manage customer relationships more efficiently.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software allows businesses to track and manage customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle. It enables businesses to build stronger relationships with their customers, improve customer loyalty, and increase profits. Today, CRM software has become much more streamlined than in the 1980s, allowing businesses to manage customer relationships with ease and to track what appeals to the customer so that the business can adapt.

The birth of mobile technology

In the 1980s, mobile phones were still a relatively new and expensive technology. They were primarily used for making phone calls, and businesses mainly used them for communication when employees were out of the office. In the 1990s, however, mobile technology started to evolve at a rapid pace. The introduction of text messaging and the development of smartphones opened up a whole new world of possibilities for businesses. Today, mobile technology is an integral part of the way businesses operate, with employees able to stay connected and productive no matter where they are.

The use of fax machines

While fax machines may seem like a relic of the past today, they were a vital piece of technology in the 1980s. Businesses used fax machines to send documents and communicate with clients and partners. While they were effective at getting the job done, fax machines had their limitations. They were slow, prone to errors, and required a dedicated phone line. Today, businesses have moved away from fax machines in favor of more efficient technologies like email and document-sharing platforms.

Data storage and management

In the 1980s, data storage was a major challenge for businesses. Large amounts of data had to be stored on physical media like floppy disks, which were prone to damage and had limited capacity. As a result, businesses had to be careful about what data they kept and how they managed it. Today, businesses have access to a wide range of data storage options, including cloud storage and external hard drives, which allow for virtually unlimited storage capacity and easy data management.

Online Services

In the 1980s, online services such as CompuServe and Prodigy allowed businesses to connect to the internet and access a variety of information and resources. These online services were limited in scope compared to the internet of today, but they provided businesses with an early glimpse of the potential of the internet for business. Today, businesses have access to a vast array of online resources and tools, including cloud computing, social media, and e-commerce platforms.


In the 1980s, networking was in its infancy, with businesses using local area networks (LANs) to connect computers and share resources within a single location. Today, networking has come a long way, with the widespread use of wide area networks (WANs) and the internet to connect computers and devices around the world.

Automation and Manufacturing

The 1980s saw the adoption of automation and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) in the manufacturing industry. This allowed for greater efficiency and accuracy in the production process, as well as the ability to customize products to meet customer needs. It also led to the creation of new jobs in the technology field, as businesses needed employees with skills in programming and computer-aided design (CAD).


Marketing was also starting to become more technology-driven in the 1980s. The rise of cable television and the proliferation of personal computers meant that businesses had more opportunities to reach potential customers through targeted advertising. In addition, the use of computer graphics and desktop publishing software made it easier for businesses to create professional-looking marketing materials in-house. However, in the 1980s, the main form of marketing was still more retro marketing strategies such as using coupons in the mail, to attract customer attention.

The Adoption of Point-of-Sale Systems

In the 1980s, businesses started to adopt point-of-sale (POS) systems to streamline the checkout process and improve efficiency. These systems allow for the electronic processing of transactions and the tracking of inventory, as well as the ability to generate sales reports and analyze customer data.

The Use of Technology for Project Management

The 1980s saw the emergence of project management software, which allowed businesses to plan, track, and organize projects more effectively. This helped to improve productivity and coordination within teams, as well as allowing for better communication and collaboration. Nowadays, there is more variety and efficiency when it comes to project management software, with different applications and software catering to different needs, including employee scheduling software, software to aid communication such as Microsoft Teams, and websites to help organize projects and workflow, such as the popular site Trello.

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