IT'S my 30th year in broking. A lot has changed in 30 years, and there is a lot we all now take for granted about the sharemarket. Like computers. Not only was there no internet, no email, and no online broking in 1982, there were no personal computers.
In 1982 the Commodore 64 had just been released and Bill Gates was declaring that 640K bytes should be enough for anybody.
Thirty years ago I was employed by Buckmaster & Moore, an English stockbroker, and was attending my first ever morning meeting in their offices at Bishopsgate EC2 (before it was redeveloped).
The firm had been founded about 1900 by the captain of the Cambridge polo team and Olympic polo player, Walter Buckmaster, and some Irish bloke from Repton whose father-in-law was a stockbroker.
In 1982 brokers had to get to work so early in the morning (8.30am) that every firm offered its employees a full silver service cooked breakfast before the 9.30am meeting.
The partners had a butler who served theirs in the boardroom. We had to get our own from the buffet table and eat it at "the long" table.
Only partners were allowed to smoke cigars or drink spirits in the morning meeting (cigarettes were OK). Everyone smoked. Ashtrays were built into the desks. Everybody drank. Beaujolais Nouveau cost the industry a day of productivity a year, if not two. On my first day I drank five pints at lunchtime. Of Pimm's.
People slept in the toilets and everyone carried a piece of paper with their address in their suit top pocket, so the taxi drivers knew where to take you when you passed out in the back of the cab. Share prices were displayed on one massive TV screen (28-inch) that sat next to the senior partner's desk. An active stock price would change maybe five times a day. Most didn't change. A four-point move on the FT All Share was a volatile day.
Prices were updated by stock exchange orange buttons who, if they could be bothered, would walk around the stock exchange floor and ask jobbers if anything had changed. The jobbers would create trade by pretending they had. Not a lot of prices changed after lunch.
In the finance field there was an nth of the information. iPads? Huh! In 1982 Sony had only just launched the first personal compact disc player. We didn't know what Wall Street had done without one of the partners making an expensive long-distance phone call. No one, including the fund managers, had ever thought of dealing in international stocks. The newspapers were everything, and inside trading was knowing what a journalist was going to write about. All you had to do was buy them a drink.
1982 was the day of Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, ET, Blade Runner, Rocky III, Thriller and Eye of the Tiger. The average house in the UK cost #23,644. The US was in recession. Inflation was 8.6 per cent. Interest rates were 10.0 per cent. The Dow was 875 (now 15 times higher) and the All Ords was 613 (now seven times higher).
Research was written on lined paper with a fountain pen and sent to the typing pool. People could spell and knew grammar. The phone never rang in your pocket while you were talking to someone. A list of historic PEs was a research innovation.
Service consisted of telling fund managers prices, what a company did, buying lunch and taking orders if you were a "good chap". New clients were walked past the firm's swanky "wall" of annual reports.
Every broking house owned its own printing press and a messenger department to produce and distribute the research by hand to all the fund managers in the City. The best clients got it first. Colours and charts were mind-blowing when they appeared.
The peak of technology was Datastream and the coffee vending machine. Ever had cup-a-soup withdrawal?
But tell all that to the kids of today and see what they say. "WTF" is about as eloquent a reply as you're likely to get.