Technologically speaking, the end of an era has finally arrived at The Wayne Independent and many other newspapers across the country.
And, appropriately enough, when that end did come here in the Maple City, snowflakes were falling...
When I first embarked upon my career as a sports editor, things were just a wee bit different than they are now.
Getting a daily paper out was much more of a "hands-on" process.
There were pencils everywhere … and x-acto knives and hot wax. We used miles of border tape and spent countless hours pasting stories onto flats.
Our cameras still used actual film that needed to be developed and the clatter of typewriters could be heard at any hour of the day or night. Sadly (or happily, depending on your viewpoint!) those days are long gone.
The darkoom has been converted into a server room for all our computers. The waxing machine is now gathering dust in a corner and just one lonely typewriter remains in the entire building.
We do still have a pencil sharpener mounted on the wall, but I have a sneaking suspicion the young whipper-snappers who work as inserters have no idea what it is.
Back in those halcyon days of yore, the height of our technology was provided by The Associated Press.
The "AP" serves as a clearinghouse for thousands of small papers like The Wayne Independent. It's a massive, worldwide news gathering organization that provides stories and photos by subscription.
Back in "the day," news was transmitted via a machine that resembles more than anything else an old-fashioned ticker-tape.
Thankfully, those went the way of the dinosaurs and were replaced in the late 1970s and early '80s by satellite dishes.
Page 2 of 3 - As anyone who's ever strolled past our 220 8th Street offices likely knows, we have one such satellite dish mounted on the roof of the building.
Or, we did have, anyway.
On Tuesday morning, a tag-team tandem of AP techs arrived on the scene to remove it, thus marking the end of an era.
One of the many jobs I was assigned here at TWI by our former publisher Don Doyle involved that very same satellite dish.
The first thing I would do each morning during the winter months was take a glance at the control panel. If the signal strength showed less than a certain number, it was off to the roof for me!
Armed with a shovel from the pressroom, I'd clamber up the metal ladder, through the hatch and out into the frigid air.
Once there, I'd pause for a moment to gaze out over the wintry landscape, then go about the task of shoveling out all the snow.
It usually took only a few minutes to restore the signal strength and start the AP's stories flowing again. Then, the fun would begin!
I'd put the shovel down, make some snowballs and scan the parking lot below for potential victims. Yes, more than once I sent our current publisher scurrying for cover, laughing and cursing as she went.
Over & Out
So, when I met Ralph Garside in the parking lot Tuesday morning, I did so with just a camera and note pad … no shovel or snowballs.
Ralph has been a tech with the AP for 34 years and has an unique perspective on the satellite dish situation.
Page 3 of 3 - "I started with them back in 1979 and I helped put a lot of these up," he said, looking up at the behemoth and squinting into the sun.
"Now, I guess it's come full circle. I'm coming back to take them all down."
Ralph's partner, John Olsesnevich, is also a vet of the AP scene in his 21st year on the job.
A senior tech based out of Pittsburgh, John has used these types of satellite dishes to wire up everything from the Super Bowl and Final Four to the Repubican and Democratic National Conventions.
"I still enjoy doing it," he said with a wry grin. "But, it's an awful lot of traveling. We service these things all over the East Coast."
Back in the '80s, it took more than four hours to set up the TWI satellite dish.
On Tuesday, it was gone in less than one. Time marches on and one form of technology replaces another.
Who knows? In another 20 years, the TWI Sports Editor may be replaced by an android right out of Star Trek or Star Wars.
I won't go quietly, though, I promise you that. When those silicon devils come for me, I'll be up on the roof raining snowballs down in their heads and laughing like a loon!