I’m only 46 years old, yet it’s amazing the changes I’ve seen in technology with regard to the writing profession in my thirty years in the business.

When I interviewed to be a member of the part-time sports department staff at the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1979, I took my writing test on one of the many manual typewriters in the office. The PG was in the early stages of computerization, and I remember being fascinated by the ability of the video display terminals (VDTs) to turn a story into column format with a few keystrokes. How cool was that?

I enjoy watching the expressions on young people’s faces when I describe the process we had to follow in filing a story from a remote location. The writer would have to read their story over the phone to a colleague back at the office, who would kink the phone between their shoulder and ear, and type the story into the system by dictation.

Unfortunately, I was a very fast typist and was called upon to take dictation from the full-timers at all times of the day, including 5 a.m. after a Monday Night Football game involving the Packers. That’s not a good time to answer the bell when you’re a college student.

No, we didn’t have cell phones. Or fax machines. Or Internet service. (We did have indoor plumbing, however.) I remember battling parents for position at the pay phones underneath the stands in the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse during the state high school tournaments. It was like fighting for a rebound in basketball. We had to allow enough time to dictate our stories before deadline, too.

A few years later, technology had evolved to where we could connect our TRS-80 portable computers by Radio Shack (Trash-80s, we called them), and transmit our stories via phone line to the newspaper’s computer. The problem with TRS-80s was you could only see four lines of type on the tiny screen above the keyboard.

Today, as long as I have a phone and an Internet connection (which is virtually everywhere), I can do my job from anywhere. I deal with clients all over the world without ever leaving the comfort of my home.

Considering where we were not that long ago, that’s pretty cool. Really… I’m not that old!
Posted by Mike on April 30, 2009 at 6:55 AM under
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