The kitten sits by our back door, gazing through the glass pane at the world on the other side. Her universe, since we found the scared infant feline on the back porch, has been limited to what she’s explored inside four walls.
She watches the older cats and dogs that allow us to live here as they parade in and out, but she seems content to sit and look, never venturing through the door. You have to wonder, isn’t she curious about what lies on the other side?
My curiosity was piqued the first time I peered through the back door of the old Mount Pleasant (Texas) Tribune office, and I’m talking about before the newspaper was a daily. Huge, noisy beasts, those machines were that once produced characters of type—one line at a time, and printed pages—one sheet at a time. In addition, the type setting machines that employed molten lead generated enough heat to make the entire office toasty during the winter and sweltering in the summer time.
Linotype machines, as they were called, assembled molds for the letter forms in lines of type called “matrices.” Each line was then cast from hot metal as a single piece producing what was called a “slug.” While tedious by today’s standards, the machines allowed for much faster typesetting and page composition than the previous method, by hand. Prior to linotype machines, typesetters built pages by placing one pre-cast metal letter, punctuation mark or space at a time.
With some 90 keys on two separate keyboards for caps and lower case letters, operating a linotype machine was a unique skill. As I recall, a Mr. King was the linotype operator at the Tribune that night.
Contrast that with the method for creating and delivering the communiqué you’re perusing right now. Took me about 20 minutes to compose it on a laptop computer that is small enough to tuck under your arm, quiet as a whisper and doesn’t heat up the room. Plus, no printing press was needed. All I did was hit “publish” and it was done, zapped away into cyber space, ready to read on any computer anywhere in the world. Hey, my computer will even send your computer an email to let you know I just “published” another volume of ramblings for your consideration.
With the launch of a blog for my columns, I’ve quit looking through the glass pane and I’ve stepped through the door. Certainly blogs are nothing new. They’ve been around a while, and they’re just a different means of doing the same job linotypes did until offset printing flourished in the 70s—delivering information such as someone’s weekly column. Using a blog to publish my columns is just a new world to me.
So, I’ll keep doing the same old thing I’ve been doing for decades, crafting a weekly dispatch, arranging words on a page while hoping to strike a note of harmony with your reading pleasure. The only new thing will be the method of delivery.
Look for a new column each week as well as an archive of some older pieces. Oh, and I’ll also let you know should the kitten ever make a bold new move into a different world.
June 30, 2015