"I'll be go to hell," I blurted out before I could stop myself as the screen on my computer flashed that tell-tall flicker just before the entire thing locked up.

Down again.

Don't misunderstand me. I for one am damn glad these confounded devices exist. Why there was a time a guy had to lug about 150-pounds of gear up and down the stairs of some of the most inaccessible spots known to man just to cover a damn football game.

You needed a typewriter, a ream or two of paper, perhaps another 40- to 50-pounds of a thing known as a "Telecopier" to send the story over the phone lines a page at a time once you wrote it. And then you had to wait six minutes for each page only to find out it didn't take at the other end.

But, I'm certainly not like some I've known. My first sports editor, Jerry "JJ" Jurgens, wouldn't even go near the first machines we used to work on -- Video Display Terminals -- when we first got 'em back in the early 1970s.

He'd simply type his copy at home, on one of those old manual Coronas, bring it in to the office and make one of us rookies input the stuff in the VDT.

And there were times all "JJ's" near religious avoidance of the devices didn't seem all that bad an idea.

Back then, long before the miraculous "Save" function, you could get to the bottom of a 20- to 30 inch piece and then lose it all in one of those green flashes of light known as a "CRASH."

One night at the old Davenport Times-Democrat, it took three guys from the state desk to pull me off a so-called computer expert -- who came along with our newly installed equipment from the factory someplace in Florida. These guys, none of whom had ever read a newspaper -- let alone worked on one -- used to work a couple to a shift each night in case something went wrong with the system.

And, like the self-fullfilling prophecies they undoubtedly were, something always seemed to go wrong five or six times every single night.

You'd bust your hump with a story some idiot of a copy editor had already sent back to ya’ for three or four rewrites, get to the bottom line and then lose it in a crash.

Then some disinterested electronic geek who came along with the machinery from the factory, would come out from behind the swinging doors to the backshop, with a huge clueless smile on his face with a "Well, we're down."

Finally, this particular night, I'd had enough. I sweat over the wrap on a 30-inch Pulitzer Prize offering, only to see it disintegrate before my eyes in another "crash."

The dummy in the lab jacket pushes through the swinging doors and announces in one of those "Bring out the dead" monotones that "We're down," and I'm for ripping the guy's head off and crashing it through the nearest window out into the street two floors below.

His state desk bodyguards finally get me calmed down, or as calmed down as I get, and the computer geek comes back with a "Well, what's his problem? He can always write it again, can't he?"

I should point out that all this was long before "9-1-1." But from the way the emergency units responded to the T-D newsroom, you couldn't have told the difference.

And if it hadn't been for the fact that the T-D's editor and chief at the time was a former paratrooper who had a soft spot for those of us, who like bird crap fall from the skies, I'd have probably still been serving time for rearranging the computer geek's smug looking face.

Now-a-days we have "tech support" departments to handle all our computer problems.

Whenever the things go on the blink, which, with the passage of almost 30 years has been trimmed from five or six times a night to two or three, we just give tech support a holler.

Of course with our a.m. schedule being what it is, we usually have to send that holler out via pager.

But the pleasant tech support guy on call that particular night usually calls us right back, with tons of sage advice.

"Well, you know it really shouldn't be doing that," is a common response, but not one that inspires a lot of confidence. Or the ever-popular, "You know, it's never done that before."

I must also point out that the remedy is always pretty much the same; "Well, have you tried rebooting (restarting) it?"

I guess I don't have to tell you that we all have much the same question on these evenings when the call goes out to tech support. Why don't we just reboot as a first response to all problems?

"Damn it! There it goes again!"

Guess that's why they call those little flashing box-like things on the computer screen "cursors." Or should I have made that cursers?

You know how I am with those damn homonyms. So, anybody got a typewriter in this place?

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online July 18, 2001

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