It is no surprise to anyone that computers have changed the way we do our jobs. I remember the first time my husband said to me, “we are getting email at work.” It must have been sometime in the late 80s early 90s. I was not impressed.
First of all, “what was email?” Secondly, I love paper, pens, pencils, crayons, paints, etc. How could we possibly live without those items?
Some years later, when my children were in middle school, I was a single mom, and I had to quit being a fiber artist to take a “real job” that I became a newspaper editor. It was something on my bucket list, and I loved the job after I learned how to fill a 16-page paper each week by myself.
Each week, my email (yes, we all succumbed to a new form of correspondence) was full of press releases from various organizations vying for an opportunity to be placed on one of my pages. It was a sure bet if the press release contained a local name.
One day, the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) communications person called to reprimand me about using North Dakota State School of Science (NDSSS) in my paragraphs about student honor rolls and such.
“I’m not sure how that could have happened,” I said. “I went to that school in the 70s.” Our conversation continued as I explained to him half-jokingly that I didn’t file my paperwork to get my diploma after returning from work-study in Washington State.
“Oh, that would make a great human-interest story,” he said because as communicators, we are always seeking that next great human-interest story.
We continued talking, and I explained the years I attended and what I did for work-study, and he said, “I’ll get back to you.”
It was the same week, and this is what he told me, “Ummmm. I am sorry, but I checked with the administration, and we don’t offer that program anymore. So, I guess you cannot graduate from a program that doesn’t exist anymore.”
He sounded disappointed.
I laughed. It was true. When I began the graphic arts program at the NDSSS, our education began with platen presses, lead pigs and hand-set type. From there, we moved to paste-up with paper and wax, hand-drawn lines, photo-sensitive paper headlines created one letter at a time and large drawers of layout sheets. Then came the darkroom with chemicals and large negatives. Photos were shot into halftones with screens and plenty of expertise.
We also learned how to strip negatives, use rubylith (look it up) and burn plates – also using chemicals.
Printing was a tactile career and one I fell in love with immediately. I became the editor of the NDSSS yearbook for the two years I attended. And, now – here we are.
There were perhaps many such careers that computers have commandeered. Being a painter, lithographer, typographer or graphic artist was a specialized trade. It used to be to make a copy of a recipe, you would have to go to the library and pay a dime. Now, we can all print, design, and publish at the stroke of a key.
Not to complain about computers, I use one every day, but somehow, I feel like my career choice has been watered down, and specialization is a thing of the past. I’m still finding typos in PowerPoint presentations and brochures, sometimes cringing at the layouts that forgo all the formal training of an educational program that no longer exists. I guess we all be “obsolete” after a while, but it is something to think about because apparently, it happens to everything.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.