Out Loud: Technology and the newspaper …

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Technology certainly changed the way we operate here at the newspaper now from how we operated when I started here in 1984.

For one thing, the number of people it takes to produce the weekly newspaper dropped as a result of speed.

When I started, a composing department included folk who made up ads using clip art, typesetting machines, paste-up boards and wax. Pica poles and X-Acto knives were tools of the trade. The department also included a day typesetter for news copy and some ad copy, and me, the night typesetter.

Back then, some of us worked through the nights Monday and Tuesday to get the paper hand-delivered to the printer by 5 a.m. Wednesday.

We used Compugraphic typesetting and photosetting machines — at that time a crucial advantage to newspapers in cost-effectiveness and speed over the previous hot-type method.

The screen on the typesetting machine was small. You could only see a few words at a time so your errors showed up later. This created punched tape — impossible to read — fed into a large machine that produced  type on light-sensitive paper. The paper was then taken to the darkroom and run through a developer onto paste-up paper. Then, someone would proof your errors and these would be fixed by requiring the retyping of that one line again.

We worked in the two stone buildings to the west of Creekstone Inn, the composing, front desk, darkroom and bookkeeping in the east building; editorial, circulation and paste-up in the west building.

I worked there for about a year and then returned in 1987 as the front-desk person in charge of answering phones, classifieds, service directory and legals. Then, the co-publisher died a month later and by summer, the business was sold.

New owners brought in the first commercial Apple computers, I was sent to Pennsylvania to train and when I returned, operations were now in the computer age and we were off.

Compared to today, those original programs and computers were primitive. The mouse was a clutzy thing, the monitor displays were in black and white, and were limited in graphics, and storage capacity was laughable. A megabyte seemed enormous to us.

But none of us could see the future and we still can’t. So, we were thrilled with the capabilities compared to what we had before.

We didn’t know that advancements would eventually allow the paper to be sent to the printer via something called the internet. That we would be able to “build” pages without our trusty X-Acto knives and wax.  Ironically, we had a Town Crier website as early as 1995.

Even as late as the early 2000s, we were still “pasting up” the newspaper, and driving it down to the printer in Riverside late, late Tuesday or very early Wednesday, then waiting until it was printed to load it into the truck and drive it back.

Now, the paper is to the printer before 3 p.m. Tuesday. These printer deadlines would never have worked in the old days for TC staff but even the printer’s technology is computerized and far more advanced than before.

As we speak, a bunch of eggheads are out there now creating advancements we would never dream of that will change how we publish the Town Crier even next year. Right now, Jack’s just content with the little trailer and I’m happy the network didn’t crash.

Becky Clark, Editor

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