TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Behind the filing cabinets

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The Independent Culture
Did you know that in the 1950s some companies reportedly added bromide to their water to damp down employees' libidos? This is one of the many 'strange but true' facts presented by Tim Hunkin in the last of THE SECRET LIFE OF . . . (8.30pm C4) series, which rummages around in the office. Hunkin reveals that the first modern office was created by the need to organise the movements of north American trains after several crashes in the 1840s. In the 1910s, a theory of 'scientific management' was developed. Much admired by Lenin and Hitler, it led to zealots inventing holders for pencil stubs in the quest for greater efficiency. German experts in the 1950s conceived the Burolandschaft (office landscape), an attempt to humanise the workplace with carpets and pot plants. This 'human relations' approach inspired a host of 1950s information films, which bring a smile to the face of the media-wise 1990s viewer. As the camera pans past a smiling secretary in a spanking new, pot- planted Burolandschaft, the commentator wonders 'what better setting for an English rose?'. Hunkin has made an illuminating series for those who are engulfed by techno-fear at the very mention of a photocopier.

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