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When the All Ords was 613 and daily prices barely moved

It's my 30th year in broking.

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. Such as 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 640 kilobytes should be enough for anybody.

Thirty years ago I was employed by Buckmaster & Moore, an English stockbroker, and was attending my first morning meeting in their offices at Bishopsgate EC2 (before it was redeveloped). The firm had been founded in about 1900 by the captain of the Cambridge polo team and Olympian Walter Buckmaster, and some Irish bloke from Repton, whose father-in-law was a broker.

In 1982, brokers had to get to work so early (8.30am) that every firm offered its employees a full silver-service cooked breakfast in compensation before the morning meeting at 9.30am. The partners had a butler that served theirs in the board room. Sausages and marmalade le plat de choice. 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). In those days, on appointment, the partnership deposited #1 million into a partner's trading account for them to invest in gilts. I don't think they paid interest.

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). 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.

No one 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.

It was the year of Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, E.T., Blade Runner, Rocky III, Thriller and Eye of the Tiger. The average house in Britain cost #23,644. The US was in recession. Inflation was 8.6 per cent. Interest rates were 10 per cent. The Dow was 875 (now 15 times higher) and All Ords 613 (now seven times higher).

Research was written on lined paper and sent to the typing pool. People could spell and use 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. Print runs on annual reports were small and only the biggest brokers were privileged enough to have them.

Every broking house owned its own printing press and a messenger department to produce and distribute the research to all the fund managers in the city. Colours and charts were mind-blowing. The peak of technology was Datastream and the coffee vending machine.

But tell all that to the kids of today and "WTF?" is about as eloquent a reply as you're likely to get.

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