Education

New Technology For We Writers – Bring It On

Up until high school, I thought I was ahead of the program by writing with a fountain pen. Back in the mid fifties, the powers that be at my new high school, must have deemed the fountain and new-vogue ball point pen to be tool of the devil and banned them. For us, it was a wooden pen, steel nib, inkwell and/or pencil. No way, this was archaic and so very Victorian I wanted to forge ahead.
High school was where I first met a machine that was going to be a major part of my life and still is – albeit in a different form – The typewriter. The school had these big upright Underwood machines – QWERTY of course. Not for us, the new-fangled electric machines. I was impressed and quickly developed a love affair with the big brutes.
Now, let’s fast forward. I want you to imagine a small bi-weekly newspaper office in 1975 – the office is small, the newspaper not so small. The staff of reporters and sub-editors is actively engrossed at ‘Morning Prayers’, an euphemism for the layout and content of the next edition.
Somehow the discussion had come around to hot type versus the new-fangled cold type.
The Editor who had been a newspaperman since the early thirties was lamenting that computers were bordering on taking over the print media industry. His words: “Not in my lifetime” – he was almost right; computer-aided media was making inroads into the industry when he passed in 2000.
I began life as a tyro reporter in the early seventies and in those days, our stories were written on A5 paper; one paragraph for the first page and two or three paragraphs for the remainder. All typed on a manual machine – mine was a portable Olivetti. In duplicate, separated by carbon paper (remember that?) Instructions to the printer were hand written, using the time-honoured symbols; this was enhanced when the proofs came back and proof-read for mistakes and/or amendments. Our duplicates were spiked along with rejected copy. Imagine if you will a knitting needle on a stand. The spiked copies stayed on the desk for a month or two, then manually wrapped, marked, dated and put into storage.
My beloved portable was not without problems; broken or jammed keys. Tangled and torn ribbons and finally, the return carriage refused to return. Despite all of the above, we survived and our output was good.
Now, by this time, the expression, PC was beginning to emerge. The more-moneyed people were talking of their own PC and strange expressions such as e-mail and programs. The naysayers were saying how these computers were going to put people out of work and the world was plummeting to destruction. Big Brother -in the words of George Orwell – was going to be watching you.
A change of newspapers had me going in a new direction and gone was the old manual typewriter. I was introduced to a new type of machine. Old QWERTY was still there, but all my words appeared on a a television-type screen, called a monitor, best of all – well to me – was the ability to immediately correct typos and change at will. I was given a program to work from, peculiar to the paper’s editorial system. Advertising and admin had their own.
I was hooked, this was if a magic world had been open to me and it was in a very short time I procured a PC and like the fifties when I was given a fountain pen and a bottle of ink to write with, I was in another world.

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