When my children were very little people, they asked me if I’d been “alive when the dinosaurs were alive”. When I stopped laughing long enough to answer them, they declared with certainty that it was their granny, my mother, who’d been alive with the dinosaurs.
Even if I’m not that old, I do remember counting characters in headlines manually so that they would not “bust” out of the spaces allocated to them on paper layout grids. A capital “M”, for example, would make up two characters, and a lower-case “i” would be half a character.
You would have to “size” photographs meticulously. And if a story needed radical editing, you would literally cut it up with scissors and then paste it, sometimes line by line, into something readable. This would all get sent to the Works department. Inevitably, one of the sub-editors would follow the bits of paper to hack out paragraphs or rewrite a headline “on the stone”.
Then came the first of the revolutions that I and my generation experienced in newspapers: the introduction of typesetting computers that allowed us to write headlines to fit exactly and cut copy to size in exact column widths. Cutting and pasting features made rewriting a breeze.
Meanwhile, the growth of the internet and leaps in accessibility and speed made it possible for more adventurous employers to try new ways of doing things. Telework was the buzzword. A string of big companies saw its benefits: for example, British Telecom’s 9,000 teleworkers are reportedly 30% more productive than those who stayed in the office.
Technology has also allowed people like me to work from places like this. This would not have been an option for me 15 years ago. Today, my office looks out onto the sea; incidentally, as I write this, I’m watching at least two whales frolicking. I am about 1,000km from Johannesburg, but am still occasionally invited to a business breakfast in Midrand as if I lived just up the highway, not down a distant dirt track.
My point is that revolutions that fundamentally affect the way we do things – that give us the power to choose how we live and how we work – are taking place in our lifetimes. We have different dinosaurs these days.
Through these great blogging sites, any of us can tell our stories without having to sell them to newspapers. That’s hugely empowering. And it’s great being a reader in this new world. It works for me.