June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:43 PM
"I look at my computer each morning and wonder when and how it will become antiquated. I'm antiquated enough myself to know it's inevitable, but it's hard to imagine what will replace it.The computer itself is responsible for plenty of antiquating. All the stuff we used to produce a newspaper with, except the printing press, is now gone. More precisely, the computer ate it. Inside the computer are the electronic versions of: dummy sheets, typeset copy, hot wax machine to make the copy stick, paper cutters to make it fit, Exact-O knives to separate paragraphs, proportion wheel to make art fit on the page, and a complete darkroom except for film processing. Of course, we're behind the times. All-digital newspapers don't even have negatives to scan. But we'll catch up, and pretty soon film will be another thing our computer does not need.I never imagined computerized newspaper production when I started in this business in the late 1970s. Phototypesetting was fairly new, having sent the linotype machines to historical society museums all over the nation. I couldn't imaging anything more modern than the Comp 4 with its eight different font styles (an amazing number in those days), but now it's in the museum too, right next to the linotype machine.What will come after the computer? I suppose the future will make it much easier to produce a newspaper. So far, it's harder. In the old days a person could paste up a newspaper with only a few hours of training, although lots of experience was helpful. Today, it takes computer expertise to produce a newspaper, which comes only through hundreds or thousands of hours of experience using Quark or Pagemaker.Maybe in the future we can simply talk to the computer and tell it what to do. Put these stories on page one and make it look good, for example. Or, Make this picture a column bigger, and run the type 1 1/2 columns.That's what we used to tell the people who pasted up the newspaper. Sometimes they'd talk back and offer better ideas. Maybe that's the computer of the future. We'll have a simulated paste-up person who talks back, but we won't have to pay. I wonder if it will be able to go out for a beer after the paper's done? "