Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beware if computer is thinking along a different line than you

I am not alone in my fondness of typewriters.

After last week’s essay, I heard loving comments about them everywhere I went – all week long. Four people interrupted their breakfasts at Burgers-N-Beer to talk about typewriters. One-time Willoughby Patrolman Bill Crosier talked of using the two-finger, hunt and peck system to type out his reports – if Capt. Joe Pachnowski let him use the machine.

And Lorrie Rowe was kind enough to email a picture of her 9-year-old granddaughter banging out a story on an old electric typewriter, as well as a photo of her mother’s old Royal typewriter, which no one is allowed to use.

“Thanks for the memories,” she wrote. No, Lorrie. Thank YOU.

Now, of course, most typewriters collect dust as we do our compositions on computers.

(I am using one right now, so if anything goes wrong here, it is not my fault. Blame the computer.)

What can go wrong with a computer, you ask. Plenty. And everything. That is because typewriters don’t think, they just do what you tell them to do. But computers. Aha! They are always thinking. They think electronically. And if they are thinking along a different line than you, well, good luck with that! A computer will do whatever it wants to do, no matter what you want.

The results can be disastrous. Two recent examples come quickly to mind.

Two weeks ago, writing on Robin Palmer’s computer at The News-Herald, which I do for about an hour and a half every Monday, I wrote an entire column for the coming Sunday’s paper.

As I got to the very end, within one or two words, I hit a key that turned everything black.

Everything disappeared. Everything. I began to panic. My palms became sweaty. I asked everyone in the newsroom to help me find the column which I had just lost.

People who know a lot more about computers than I do, especially Assistant City Editor Bill DeBus and Executive Editor Tricia Ambrose, pitched in, assuring me it was in there somewhere.

They looked and looked – in the backup, the hard drive, or wherever you look to find missing columns.

Nothing was there. Nada. Zilch. Rien. It was totally lost. I took some deep breaths, went to the men’s room and splashed cold water on my face.

Then I returned to the newsroom, picked myself up, dusted myself off, and started all over again. (I almost felt a song coming on.)

I rewrote the entire column. I tried to recreate the one I had previously written. I don’t know if the outcome was as good, better or worse than the original, but do you know what? You can never replicate your first effort exactly as you did it before. It is utterly impossible.

Example No. 2: I was sitting at my computer at Lakeland Community College, typing furiously. I was outlining several pages, single-spaced, of topics for conversation for the “Jim and Jack Show,” three one-hour discussions by Jack Platz and me on topics of interest – to us, at least – on the good old days in Lake County.

Much of it was about politics. All of it was about local history. Jack wrote his notes on a legal pad with a ball-point pen. Good move. Me? I used a computer. Big mistake.

After a few hours work, I finished and tried to move the copy. A note at the top of the page said, “Not Responding.” (I get that a lot on my computer.)

I tried and I tried to get the computer to do anything. All the machine would say was “Not Responding.”

I asked all the ladies in the office to help me. They tried. No luck. I left for the day with the machine still turned on. Nancy Brooks said she would look at it later on. I called her late in the day. No movement. Still “Not Responding.”

That evening I turned on my little computer at home and tried to recreate all the work I had done at the college. What a chore!

When I finished, I forwarded it to myself electronically at Lakeland.

Next morning when I arrived and looked at the computer, the “Not Responding” line was still showing. I called the college’s “Help” number.

I was able to retrieve what I had sent from home, print it out, and use it for notes as Jack and I, along with our emcee, Bob Cahen, went down the hall to the TV studio to record the first of our three broadcasts on county history as we recalled it.

Bob is a masterful interviewer. Jack, a longtime college professor, county commissioner and Democratic Party leader, has total recall. And the two guys at the controls, Phil and Sam, are master technicians.

I think we got a pretty good result. It, along with the shows we will record later this year, will be broadcast on the Lakeland Cable Network. When? Don’t ask. When they are ready to show them, I suppose.

Meanwhile, don’t give up on typewriters. Computers may be here to stay, but typing machines will always be a treasured part of Americana.


Blogger Lake County Guy said...

"I asked everyone in the newsroom to help me find the column which I had just lost," Collins said.

But only one line was ever found, and it read "But I digress."

October 12, 2014 at 5:32 AM 

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