Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 1999

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / June 12, 1999

It’s amazing how dependent I’ve become to technology in my job and in my personal life, and I’m sure it’s the same for many of you.

Remember how it was working in a business or in a government office without fax machines, beepers, cellular phones and the Internet? Isn’t it astonishing we ever got anything done? Yet, try and explain that fact to a child who is growing up in this age and thinks anything before Ronald Reagan is “ancient history.”Yes, Dorothy, there was a time when even newspapers had nothing more technologically advanced than an IBM Selectric typewriter. During my owninternship at the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, the newsroom of that major Louisiana newspaper had manual typewriters of 1940s vintage. Thiswas in the early 1970s.

During my career, I’ve had to adapt to almost every stage of computer technology as I changed jobs to the point where now I’m typing this column in a WordPerfect format on a Quark program, where I can import graphics and photos with a few clicks of my mouse.

Every time I leave the office, my cellular phone is turned on, so the office and my wife can keep track of me. This has also come in handy a few timeswhen I’ve broken down in traffic as well, to summon help. Not all that longago, I would have had to simply wait and hope for the kindness of strangers.

Much of my own personal entertainment involves going online once I get home. Since I find research entertaining, I can dig into virtually anysubject by simply typing it into a search engine and clicking on various links. When I was at LSU, I would similarly go into the library on a freeafternoon, go the card catalog, open a drawer at random and research topics as they struck my interest.

I cannot imagine an office operating without a fax machine, especially this one, and the technology on all these fronts is constantly improving.

All of which does give me pause with the hoopla involving the so-called “Y2K Bug,” but I also look upon it as job security. If all the computerscrash, we will all need those old guys like me who remember how to get things done without a computer.

Yes, there are still a few fossils like me in the workforce, struggling to keep up with advances in computer technology so as not to fall behind and lose my usefulness. However, I’m looking forward to Jan. 1, 2000.Newspapers managed to publish for many decades without computer technology. There were even newspapers before telephones and beforetelegraphs, once the cutting edge of communications technology. And, ifwe have to go back to letterpress methods, using manual typewriters and shoe leather to gather information, a few of us are still here to do so.

At the very least, we oldsters who feel robbed by the poaching of Social Security funds by those young thieves in Congress will have our comeuppance at last.

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur

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