During the recently ended strike at NCR Corp. plants here, Albert Murphy recalled the days when the company offered first-run films that workers could view during their lunch break.
These movies, divided into segments and shown over a number of days, were one of a number of extras that workers at NCR can remember. Today most of those fringe benefits are gone, and so are most of the workers.
"I guss the biggest thing was (that) 20 years ago it was one big happy family," Murphy, one of 850 strikers, remarked. "Today it isn't quite happy."
For NCR, formally National Cash Resister Corp. is a very different concern from the paternalistic company which grew with the city to a peak employment here of about 20,000 in 1969.
Today NCR, which makes computers, banking machines, and point-of-sale retail terminals that have replaced the cash register, is smaller. It has gradually shed its paternalism toward employees. And it offers a prime example of the effects changing technology can have on a company.
The NCR of 1977 has reduced its Dayton work force form 20,000 to about 5,000. At the same time, this industrial giant - which last year had sales of $2.3 billion - has shrunk its worldwide work force from 103,000 in 1969 to about 65,000.
Nowhere do the changes appear more pronounced than they do here, where NCR's headquarters are located. Where Dayton workers once handled 70 per cent of NCR's U.S. production in 1969 before the cutbacks began, they now do about 15 per cent.
Behind this gradual metamorphosis is a tiny silicon chip perhaps a quarter of an inch squae. Called a microcircuit, or semiconductor, it replaces many larger mechanical parts. The semiconductor made possible a technological revolution in the business machine industry in which NCR, once best known for its cash registers, in a mainstay.
The cash register, with 5,000 parts, has been replaced by the so-called point-of-sale terminal, an electronic device with only a few hundred parts. This transformation was made possible by the microcircuit, as were changes that have shaken the massive NCR manufacturing and office plants at Dayton's southern edge to its aging core.
Already some of the multistory buildings that made up a complex of more than 4 million square feet of office and production space have been razed, and more will come down.
Manufacturing has been descentralized to a number of assembly operations scattered about the nation. The decentralization itself would have been economically undesirable before the advent of the microcircuit.
The microcircuit's reduction of parts in equipment means fewer workers are needed to make and assemble products. NCR also buys many of is parts on the open market from mass producers who can make them more cheaply.
Earl Hampton, president of United Automobile Workers Local 1616, which represents production workers here, said the result has been the shift for an assembly line which once required 350 to 500 persons has been reduced to 15 or 20.
Another change that the smaller electronic components have made possible is that production jobs, while fewer, are also simpler.
An out-of-date labor contract on Hampton's desk, for example, shows a production job in which the worker is given well over 100 weeks to reach peak efficiency at his task. Today it takes only up to several days to learn the kinds of jobs available.
The impact of the changes at NCR has been reduced because they took place or a long period of time, but they have not gone unnoticed.
Worker loyality has dissipated among those production employees who remain in what is mostly an office operation here.
Dayton's income tax collections have dipped because of labor cutbacks: the demition of some old buildings and the reduction in property taxes for others have cut property taxes.
The job losses at NCR and some other local companies have led to an area-wide push to create new service and other non-manufacturing jobs.
For NCR, the choice was to change or eventually go out of business, company spokesman Charles Truax said. The UAW's Hampton agreed, though he laments the loss of jobs.
The transformation was difficult for the company. In 1972, as NCR wrote off obsolete machinery, mechanical parts it had produced, and manufacturing facilities, the company reported a loss of almost $60 million, its first since the Depression. In 1976, it reported a record $95.6 million profit after taxes.
NCR's ten-year-long transition into the electronic age, which began in 1967, is considered virtually complete by the company.
Looking back on it, Truax describes the transition this way: "It was the most difficult period and the most difficult transition in NCR's 93-year history, more sweeping in its ramifications than any other development that had occurred.
"I don't think it would be an understatement to say it was a traumatic experience both for the company itself and for its employees," he continued. "It was like going out of one business and into another business all in a few short years, involving a very large, very complex company that operated worldwide."