Back to the future! Information Technology on GB Commemoratives

The theme this week over at Sunday Stamps hosted by See it on a Postcard is “inventions/discoveries”. My mind went straight to this set of GB commemoratives when I read the topic, so I thought I would once again share them exactly as mounted in my teenage stamp album. This particular pair, with its unusually long and thin stamps – measuring 72mm (h) x 20mm (v) – proved slightly tricky to present, and as you will notice, I was forced to overlap two Hawid mounts. At the time of issue these were the widest stamps ever produced by the Royal Mail. I remember absolutely loving these stamps as a child, and looking at them now, almost 40 years later, I still do, representing as they do, a fascinating glimpse at what was considered state of the art technology back then!

Information Technology 1982
Information Technology 1982

Issued on 8 September 1982, these stamps celebrated the growing role of computers in modern life and marked Information Technology Year. They were designed by Delaney and Ireland with illustrations by Brian Delf, and even employed early computer-assisted design. The birth of the World Wide Web was still seven years away, so the technology illustrated looks really rather quaint! And there are some real doozies in the Presentation Pack that illustrate how old-fashioned gender roles were still firmly entrenched in the early 1980s!

In the supermarket, barcode laser scanners record details of each purchase, enabling the store manager to maintain an up-to-the-minute picture of sales and stock levels on each product line without having to move from his office. … And in the home, electronically-programmed devices, such as automatic washing machines, are relieving the housewife of some of her biggest household chores.

Presentation Pack, 1982

The two stamps illustrate cutting-edge technology throughout history spread over two stamps:

  • 15½p – The Development of Communications: papyrus scrolls featuring ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics; a library; and a word processor.
  • 26p – Modern Technological Aids: a Viewdata machine set up for Prestel; an Intelpost satellite (International Electronic Post); and a barcode reading laser pen in use in a supermarket.

More from the presentation pack … Who remembers the fax machine?

Intelpost transmits the contents of documents electronically within minutes between major towns and cities in the UK, and to a number of overseas destinations. The opening of the inaugural Iink between London and Toronto in June 1980 made Intelpost the world’s first public, international facsimile transmission system.

Presentation Pack, 1982

The second stamp included a shameless plug for Prestel (from the words “press” and “telephone”), the brand name for the UK Post Office’s own subscriber-based Viewdata technology. Again, from the presentation pack, one gets a sense of these technologies being the forerunners of the on-line services we enjoy today.

There are new telecommunications services like Prestel that link our television sets to a vast computer information bank. And teleconferencing facilities are bringing people in different parts of the world together in sound and vision without any of them having to leave their offices.

Presentation Pack, 1982

Don’t forget to head on over to See it on a Postcard and visit the other Sunday Stamps bloggers today!

5 replies on “Back to the future! Information Technology on GB Commemoratives”

You’re right – my first thought was how quaint, or old fashioned the last panel looks and yet, still so easily recognizable!
I rather wish we didn’t have so many things electronically programmed. (but not the internet – that has been a godsend especially this last year!!)

Ah the fax machine and the paper jamming but still in use for football’s deadline transfer day which always amuses me. I like these stamps and nothing says the 80s like that woman’s perm.

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