A metal pica pole and an old paper column header sit in the top drawer of my desk.
I don’t use either any more although the pica pole – a thin ruler – makes for a fine Slim Jim if I was a car thief. I’m not, but I have used it over the years to bail out more than a few drivers who have locked their keys in the vehicles outside the Mirror office.
“Misspent youth,” I joke to the drivers after popping open the door with the help of the trusty pica pole.
The drivers always looked at me with skepticism, but they were always glad to have their keys back without paying a tow truck driver 50 bucks.
The pica pole – picas are a unit of measurement, one-sixth of an inch – and the column header were used way back when we still “pasted up” the newspaper. This was in the days when there was no such thing as paginating a newspaper on a personal computer.
Heck, we barely had computers when I started in this industry in 1987. At my first job at the Clinton (Ontario) News-Record we had Compugraphic typesetters that cost five grand a piece and had a screen far smaller than an iPad.
All it did was typeset and even then our floppy discs had to be sent to another typesetter for processing. After that, copy would come out of a huge machine, which would then be waxed, folded, cut and pasted onto the “page dummies.”
The dummies were then photographed and made into plates that would then go on the press to produce the next edition.
Today, everything is done digitally.
Pica poles, paper standing heads, waxers, Compugraphics and much more is long gone from journalism.
When I first started, each day began with opening a stack of mail. It wasn’t long before the mail was replaced by a pile of rolled-up fax messages.
We still have a fax machine in the office, but it’s seldom used. The faxes also stopped coming en masse around 2000. They gave way to e-mails and now Facebook and Twitter messages.
Cell phones were also in their infancy back in the “dark ages.” They looked more like oversized walkie-talkies and they were only useable if you happened to live in a big city.
Today, everyone has a cell phone which is basically their home computer too.
So many changes and more change will come.
Change is coming for me as well. Next Friday will be last day at the Mirror.
I never intended to remain at this job for nearly 25 years, but it’s really tough to leave the most beautiful place in Canada, made even better by the fantastic people who make this place home.
Campbell River will remain home, but it’s time to seek new opportunities.
In my final column, next week, I will provide a snapshot of the many great memories of my years at the Mirror.