Wednesday, March 01, 2006

When your grandma was a baby...

Do you remember when I first realised I am a crone? Somehow it was ok when it was only personal. But when it appears in my professional life, that's no longer a laughing matter... It's finally happened. Someone asked me today how the job now is different to... (sudden realisation and pause on the part of the asker) ... "different to..." he tried again, uncertainly. "The olden days?" I suggested, with the obligatory dangerous glitter in my eye. "Er, yes," said the asker, on whom, sadly, the glitter was wasted as we were talking on the phone. He's pretty perceptive, though, and it's just possible he picked it up from my tone. Sighing deeply. The fact is, the job isn't much different. Apart from one thing. Email. When I first started in a middling sized daily newspaper employing about 150 people, there was one fax machine. It lived downstairs with the ad reps and other money men, and if you wanted to use it you had to get the ok from the general manager. When State and Federal Parliaments were sitting, the press releases from our local politicians arrived from Sydney and Canberra by mail. Snail mail. In an envelope. With stamps. When parliament was out of session, the local politicians dropped their press releases in by hand. Just like that. Walked up the steps and headed for your desk. Often, they talked to you, with their faces. This was how it had been for a very long time. But once we got our own fax machine in the newsroom things began to change quickly. Faxes came directly to us from people who rang first to ensure someone was waiting (because the thermal paper used to jam and then burn on the rollers). We still got our wire service news via a telex machine. I was the cadet so I got a portable manual typewriter whereas the more senior journos got to share a pool of terminals that had bright yellow type on a black background and required a whole series of code at the start and finish of each article in order to let the computer make sense of them. We still had a proofreader who checked every word, every day, from the front page through the classifieds. This, unlike spellcheck, actually worked. This was 1988. That's right. Less than 20 years ago. Hands up if it feels like more? mtc (this seems like a good moment to point back here, too) Bec


Blogger blackbird said...

I used a telex machine -
and a microfiche reader.

One day I said to my boss
'keep in mind, it will take me a while to master the fax machine, as it did the microwave.'

3/02/2006 02:24:00 am  
Blogger Manhattan Mama said...

I remember starting grad school (after a few years in TV) and looking at a computer and thinking -- now how am I going to learn THIS? When I started in television production out of college, getting something to someone quickly meant me getting in a cab. Faxes? If you could find a machine that worked. Fed Ex was our email. Heck, I remember the smell of mimeograph sheets from school.....okay, thanks Bec. Now I hear my knees creaking.....

3/02/2006 02:47:00 am  
Blogger My float said...

yes, yes and yes. what's even scarier is the thought that i've been working for almost 20 years. 20 YEARS?? surely not.

3/02/2006 10:02:00 am  
Blogger Surfing Free said...

My second job was in a country newspaper in Victoria and I was the sub editor (first job was in PNG so that was waaaay back in the dark ages!). We had to layout the paper on a 'stone'. Yep, the setters would cut and paste with their hands and their scalpels and move the printed out type around as I directed it, and that's how the paper's layout came together. But it was also the days of unionism in journalism so I wasn't actually allowed to physically touch any of the type or the setters would walk off the job. That was in 1990!!! The paper computerised about a year later but it was fun while it lasted :) Yep, we used to get letters and we had a box at the front of the office for people to drop in sports results, press releases, etc... back in the day.

3/03/2006 07:54:00 am  
Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

We had comps too- and a stone!! Also typesetters and yes, you're right, the subs weren't allowed to physically touch anything out the back - remember the smell of bromides?!
we also had our huge old iron printing press downstairs that was still used for commercial print jobs.
I feel better now.

3/03/2006 09:52:00 am  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

I. Um. I was in college when the Internet became a big deal. But the funny part was that I used the Internet to get all my good news story ideas when I started working, while my older colleagues eschewed the Net for a while. So I'd always have a hundred different stories to toss around and they would have like. One. That actually helped me get ahead. The moral? Embrace technology. And the young squirts won't be able to steal your job out from under you ("You" being universal, not "You" as in Bec)!

3/04/2006 04:54:00 am  

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