Friday, April 8, 2011


I was feeling pretty old the other day.

As I was checking Facebook to keep up on the antics of my FB friends (some would call it stalking; I call it staying informed), I saw the birthday announcement of one of my beloved coworkers, a peer and a friend who has both motivated me and inspired me in our time working together.

Then I noticed the announcement included her age ... and it was half of my own. So as I'm feeling like the old man at the office, at the same time I started thinking about the things she, as well as the rest of the mostly younger crew I work with, have missed out on.

Way back in the day -- we're talking 1983 for anyone keeping score -- I started working at a newspaper so different from the one we have today that we might as well have carved our stories on stone tablets. I submitted freelance stories to the Oneida Daily Dispatch while attending college, and back in those days we had no computer word processing apparatus, no Internet, no digital photography, no electricity (just kidding there, folks). For the young people of today who take this for granted, I say to appreciate what you have because it hasn't always been there! I've been through those dark ages and we didn't know what we were missing.

I often chuckle when I click either "cut" or "paste" as I write and edit. Back in my formative days, we actually had to cut using an Exacto knife and paste using, well, paste. There wasn't any of this clicking a magic button to accomplish the chore like we do now. I always love highlighting a headline or paragraph and clicking a force-fit key or commanding the type size leading to shrink, because we used to have to actually calculate the exact length of a headline by multiplying the number of characters by their sizes and write it to fit that amount of space. And letters aren't all the same size, so that always was a trick.

Our classes at St. Bonaventure University circa the early to mid 1980s offered the cutting edge of technological opportunity back then ... knowledge that right now has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the methods of today. But I suppose there is no such thing as a worthless experience (at least that's what I tell my daughters as they prepare for their own college careers) because that training was invaluable at the time, and did set the ground work for the never-ending learning that continues. Heck, I just finished editing pages for tomorrow's paper, and I still learned new techniques tonight.

It seems like every time I learn something new, it's outdated shortly thereafter. It's like a new car that depreciates as soon as you drive it off the lot. I've gone from the manual typewriter and typesetting with leaden letter pieces to computer-generated pages; from rolls of black and white film that held maybe 24 to 36 pictures to a digital camera that can hold darn near 4,000 color photos and even videos. Who would have thought when I was a kid filming those silly 8 millimeter home movies that today I could shoot a news or music video, post it on the paper's website, and have it potentially seen by people all over the world. And that does happen ... because I can track where they are being seen and it's incredible to find all the foreign lands listed as audience sources.

I thought I was quite the modern writer when I started this Internet blog, but then we started Tweeting shortly afterwards. Even before that cooled down, we started texting breaking news. The newspaper's website is now the first place to look for the news, and the actual newsprint edition is second. Every time I learn something new, it seems days later I have to learn something else newer -- but the educational opportunities the new technologies offer is also something I don't take for granted. Don't tell my bosses, but there are a lot of people paying good money taking classes to learn the stuff they teach me here for free. Plus they pay me!

Of course, as I marvel at the technological advances of today, I have to wonder what my kids will see when they are out in the working world in a few more years. How long will it be before they look back on the wonders of modern science we use today as old fashioned machinery of times gone by?


  1. I know what you mean and often think back to where we were and how far we've come and where we are headed from here.


  2. I just heard a similar story about an airline who's computer system went down and a plane couldn't take off because no one knew how to calculate the load balance by hand anymore. They used to do it that way but they stopped training it when the system went in place. So many things we are losing because of our reliance on technology. Is it all good????

  3. Wow, true! Along those lines, I often wonder what would happen with everyone's "electronic money" if there was ever a really serious crash out there...