A Blast From The Agency Past: The 1980s

By Kelsey Rosauer on November 13, 2014 in Manage Your Agency

The Agency Past: The 1980s

The 1980s are remembered for countless things, like the Rubik's Cube, the Challenger tragedy, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Black Monday". The 1980s were also a decade full of important technological advances that would affect insurance agencies. Next week, we'll continue our series, A Blast From The Agency Past, with the big, bad 1990s.


As in the 1970s many communications were still made via telephone or typewritten letter.  There were, however, advancements and price that would have created much greater efficiency and convenience. 


Although Xerox machines had already been around for years, they were very expensive and not in wide use. By the 1980s, smaller companies like Canon introduced photocopying technology to more office settings with local service and lower cost. 

Fax Machine

Fax machines were not new inventions in the 1980s but were becoming more widely available. In 1985, a worldwide standard of transmission had been agreed upon, and by the late 1980s, agencies and carriers were able to provide documents by fax—quicker than by courier.

Document ManagementDocuments & files

By the 1980s, computers were in use, but only by very large agencies or insurance carriers and were used mostly for crunching numbers. Document management still consisted of paper copies and filing systems—office management and organization was crucial! An insurance agency had no way to organize or retrieve documents without flipping through a drawer of files. An agency put in significant resources to stay organized! 

Insurance agencies used numerous file cabinets, or simply shelves of files, to remain organized. It was important for agencies to have specific procedures for filing and retrieving documents, otherwise organization could be lost. Many agencies still have file cabinets, but most are now transitioning from paper files to maintaining their records in an Agency Management System.

Advances in technology

Many advances in technology in the 1980s affected the productivity of office workers, insurance agencies and the average person's home.


Although computers were years away from the desks of the typical insurance agency, the 1980s set the stage for how computers could and would be used. But at the time, people didn't really understand the computer's capabilities, and there was almost a fear around the use of them. Thus, the computer companies like Apple and IBM had to get creative with their marketing, and a clear divide between personal and business products began to become apparent.

The Business Computer

Computers were not widely used in office settings, yet. Companies that had computers were likely using them for basic number computing, or they were used to maintain confidential, internal records that only company employees could access. IBM was the major player in the business computer market through the 80s. While Apple wanted its computers in homes, IBM aimed to place their computers in offices. Part of this advertisement reads: "In the office, you can plug into the commodities market. Read abstracts of leading publications. Even get census figures to see who's in your major market." IBM was positioning itself as the product any business or insurance agency needed to get a leg up on their competition.

IBM Advertisement

(Image courtesy of Mashable.com)

The Personal ComputerApple Advertisement

The home computer was around prior to the 1980s; however, if you wanted one you had to go to Radio Shack and build one. Computers were built by hobbyists until companies like IBM and Apple began to build and market personal computers for home and office use. Apple's print advertisement for its Apple Computer is an example of marketing aimed at individual consumers. The advertisement reads: "It's a wise man who owns an Apple". Their 1984 Macintosh commercial built on that idea, aiming to show the public that they are in control of this new idea and product. (Image courtesy of Mashable.com)

Apple Macintosh 1984 Commercial

Casio C-80 Calculator Watch in 1980

This calculator watch was one of the first of its kind, and it sparked the creation of many more Casio C-80 Calculator Watchtech-inspired watches. Next came watches you could play games on & even watches with which you could transmit audio to nearby radios

DynaTAC 8000x in 1983

The 80s brought about the very first mobile phone. Motorola sold their DynaTAC 8000x beginning in 1983, and it weighed a little more than today's cell phone (1.75 lbs vs. today's 6oz iPhone). However, most people still didn't own a cell phone like they do today—unless you were Zach Morris, that is.

CD-ROMs in 1985

Compact discs were originally intended for sound recordings but could store up to 270,000 papers on a single disc by 1985. Today, the CD remains a way that some people choose to store data, though most use flash drives or cloud storage. CDs are still made for music albums, but they don't sell nearly at the rate they used to.

What do you remember? What were the 1980s like for your insurance agency? Leave us a comment below or send us a tweet!

Kelsey Rosauer
Kelsey Rosauer

Kelsey is the Marketing Brand Specialist at AgencyBloc. She plans and creates educational resources to help our customers organize, automate & grow their insurance agency. Favorite quote: "I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it." —Charles R. Swindoll  More articles


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