And the geeks shall inherit the frustration

Published 5:52 pm Monday, April 12, 2004

By Staff
Arthur McLean Editor
Yeah, yeah, the Internet stock bubble burst, and most of us had a good time, at least for a short time, laughing at all those paper millionaires as they turned into paper paupers.
Sometime later, reality hit, and we were somehow all a little poorer in this new economy. Strike that, make it a new new economy. The old new economy is dead.
Yet, we still need geeks. Yeah, verily, I say unto thee, the geeks shall probably not inherit the earth, but, you know you still need us.
I earned a little more geekness this week with the repair of not one, but two computers here at the Atmore Advance.
Here's a little thing about computers: they're great – when they work. They open up a whole world of possibilities that were either extremely labor intensive, or just not doable in the day.
They've cut down on the number of people required for certain tasks, and reduced how much it costs to do certain things in terms of materials.
We still have an old layout camera here at the paper. It's bigger than a Mazda Miata, and its how we used get our paper ready for the press.
You'd literally paste stories onto a big sheet of paper, put it all under glass, crank up 4,000 watts of halogen lights and take a picture. The film used was just as big as a sheet of the newspaper itself.
Then you'd have to develop the film and use it to make the plates for your press. It took an entire room dedicated just to developing the film. And, though it was before my time, I'm pretty sure you had one guy dedicated to just that task.
It was time consuming, and expensive, what with specialized sizes of film sheets and all the chemicals needed to develop them. Not to mention you could heat a small home with the power output of all that lighting equipment.
As long as your paste-up man showed up wielding shears and an exacto knife, the system was reliable and bullet-proof.
Today, of course, it's all digital. Our stories and photos are virtually placed on a virtual sheet of paper that only exists on a computer screen and hard drive.
To get the pages ready for the press, you just have to give a few instructions to the computer, and then send it all digitally over broadband to a remote press operation where the plates for the press are created in a very expensive machine by a process that's never been explained to my satisfaction.
Yes, computers can make life a lot easier, when they're working properly. Unfortunately, when they don't, it can kill productivity and morale. And more often than not, something's not working as well as it should when it comes to computers.
For our last edition, one little thing caused us a world of problems. With one dead computer and one ailing already, soon, we'd lost another and we were down to just one computer and crossed fingers under a rapidly diminishing deadline.
That, and my experience of completely disassembling one of those cute little iMac computers almost made me wish for the good ol' days of manual paste up.
Just please don't stick me with a typewriter. I'm backspace key dependent.
Arthur McLean is the editor of the Atmore Advance. He may be reached by calling 368-2123 or by email:

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