Technology is grand � when it is working

Technology is grand â�?¦ when it is working By: David Lias
Between the Lines While attending a newspaper convention back in the late 1980s, I listened in during a "round table discussion" held by local publishers and news editors. The topic of discussion: How to save money. That idea certainly seemed worthwhile. It's what compelled me to attend. I couldn't quite believe, however, one of the suggestions made by a participating editor. She worked for a group of weekly newspapers, scattered about in the communities that dotted the same county. To save money, she ordered her staff in the various offices to severely limit, and if possible, eliminate entirely, all business communication by telephone. Instead, she said, they were sending and receiving business messages via a new thing called the internet. Preposterous, I thought. The internet was yet in its infancy. The technology on hand to implement it was shaky at best. This was a very unreliable way, I thought, to talk to each other. She noted, however, that sending messages on the internet didn't cost anything. Every phone call, however, carried a long distance charge. They were, indeed, saving money. Not long after that, my boss found himself in a "should I or shouldn't I" situation. He was trying to decide whether he should purchase a fax machine for our office. This new-fangled device wasn't cheap. And he knew the only way it would serve a purpose is if other businesses we needed to communicate with also had fax machines. He had to decide if this purchase would be worthwhile. Well, he finally decided to make this technological leap. He ordered a machine. He had a new phone line installed. He plugged in all the necessary cords and wires. It didn't take long for the thing to begin ringing and spewing out paper. We received dozens of faxes a day. We sent our fair share, too. We worked the machine so hard, in fact, that it only lasted a year. With it worn beyond repair, we quickly ordered a new one so we could keep in touch with our business contacts. We recently learned the vital role digital computer technology plays in not only communicating with each other, but also in producing a newspaper. Those services used to be provided by our former parent company. Now that we are locally owned, we had to eventually separate ourselves from that service and develop our own system for logging on to the internet, sending and receiving e-mail, and downloading data from local newspapers that are published on our press. Friday was the big day for this change to happen. I'm assuming (since I wasn't involved in the arduous task of reconfiguring our entire digital communication structure) that this was supposed to be a somewhat seamless action â�?�? the change would be made, and we would hardly notice the difference. It didn't quite work out that way. On Friday afernoon, our e-mail quit. So did our internet browsers. Then our production server — which serves as the "brains" that allows, among other things, our computers to communicate with each other and with the outside world – decided to take a nap. The fact that you are reading this today is testimony to the hard work put in by several of our staff members, who worked with computer technicians to finally get a lot of the bugs out of the system. There's a chance we may still have a glitch or two that needs repair. These challenges, however, have helped demonstrate just how far we've come. Computers are a wonderful tool, as long as they work.

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