Computers on the Job: Surviving Canada's Microcomputer Revolution


161 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88862-554-5




Reviewed by Sidney Allinson

Sidney Allinson is a Victoria-based communications consultant, Canadian
news correspondent for Britain’s The Army Quarterly and Defence, and
author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.


The rarity of a computer book written from the Canadian point of view is sufficiently intriguing to make one read it with unusual interest. This is not just another of those books for the computer buff, that new genre which is rapidly becoming the profitable mainstay of publishers. It proffers none of the how-to advice on programming or hardware selection normally found in most books with the word “computer” in the title. Rather, it is for the thoughtful business person, worker, on scholar interested in the impact of these wondrous new machines upon our livelihoods.

The author, Heather Menzies, takes the reader by the hand, so that even the rawest tyro can quickly understand what the computer can do and — more importantly — what it is about to do. She fully delivers the promise of her book’s title by hewing close to the realities of the working world, rather than the vague esoterica which all too often overcome the computer theorist. This reviewer (who is, incidentally, tapping out these words on a word-processor) is personally heavily involved with computers and has high hopes for their immediate and future benefits to society. Therefore, it is heartening to read the resolute optimism with which Ms. Menzies approaches the topic. While acknowledging the valid concerns that exist over the impact of this new technology on society, she prefers to address the computer as an established fact of modern life. In doing so, she examines practical ways in which we may first cope with and then benefit from the “chip” in our working lives.

Working women in particular could benefit from reading Computers On The Job, for its warnings about the very real effect that electronic technology is already having on much of “women’s work.” Typing, filing, routine work in retail stores, banks, libraries, telephone companies, and so on, as well as a good deal of repetitive factory assembly tasks, are rapidly being made obsolete by computer-aided devices. As almost 80 percent of women work in service industries, it is inevitable that such job-threatening automation technology will greatly contribute to unemployment among females during the rest of this decade. Therefore, the wisest and most aggressive response to this timely book’s message could be the determination for one to undertake retraining in a new and firmly computer-related job skill without delay.

The book’s unrelievedly earnest prose is amusingly counter-balanced by apt cartoons by one “Hutchings,” who is regrettably given no more acknowledgment than his own signature.


Menzies, Heather, “Computers on the Job: Surviving Canada's Microcomputer Revolution,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,