Mind-boggling advancements in technology gave me plenty to write about during my years at The Tribune-Democrat.

Those advancements also changed how I prepared stories and, in retirement, made possible things that I never would have dreamed of doing when I started at the newspaper in September 1967.

Over the years I went:

n From using a manual typewriter to an electric one to a word-processing program on a computer.

n From ripping Associated Press and Tribune-Democrat Bureau copy from a noisy teletype machine to receiving them by computer.

n From watching steel being made by the integrated method to seeing it produced by steelworkers using a computer in a control room.

For years, steel in Johnstown was made by turning coal into coke that was fed into blast furnaces and then into open hearths.

In October 1981, Bethlehem Steel Corp. replaced that system – which relied heavily on manpower – with a $110 million (Wonder what it would cost today?) electric furnace steelmaking facility.

The entire operation was controlled by a three-level computer system that included 19 read-out screens and 17 printers located at 17 control stations.

The sophisticated computer system did the work of making alloy calculations and performing power-control functions.

Technology produced a way to burn the tons of waste coal that had dotted the landscape in Cambria, Somerset and Indiana counties. That led to Reliant Energy’s development of a massive $800 million power plant in Seward to replace an 82-year-old facility.

Stories I wrote about income-tax preparation and filing went from discussing care in preparing paper returns to the use of computer programs in preparing and filing electronically.

Technology allows refunds to be sent electronically to a taxpayer’s bank account and now permits that money be directly deposited into more than one account.

A “Where’s My Refund” link on the IRS Web site tells taxpayers the status of their returns.

All kinds of banking functions and the paying of bills online now are available to people who have computers

The appearance of cable television meant that those living in the Johnstown valley could now receive crystal-clear pictures from far-away stations that could not be received over the air.

I covered improvements to the Johnstown cable system and the competition that has sprung up between cable and satellite providers.

Just the other day, I watched Bill Clinton speaking at Greater Johnstown High School via streaming video that was on WJAC-TV’s Web site.

I wrote about the development of cellular telephones, an area of communication that has been replacing land-line phones. Today, some people use nothing but a cell phone.

Today’s portable phones that can be held in the palm of your hand are much more than talking devices. They also send text messages, take pictures and receive the Internet.

Road maps are being simplified with the finding of step-by-step directions to a location through programs such as MapQuest or Google.

Global positioning systems that attach to your car’s dash allow you to enter where you are going. A screen shows you exactly where you are, a voice tells you how far you are from the next turn, and the system signals when you come to your turn.

Even today’s exercise equipment is sophisticated to the point that it can tell you your heart and pulse rate.

Preparing business stories was made easier once technology made it possible for companies and businesses to have Web pages. That put information at my fingertips that at one time would have taken much more time to obtain, making it possible to give readers stories with more detail, depth and background.

During my working years, technology changed how newspapers are prepared.

It seems ages since I banged out my stories on a manual typewriter. The edited copy then was sent to a linotype operator where it was set in type and put on a press plate.

Then came electric typewriters in which copy was scanned into a computer.

The appearance of individual computer terminals in our newsroom simplified the editing and correcting of copy. Whole blocks of type could be deleted or moved to another part of the story in seconds.

Technology continues to be a part of my life in retirement.

I wrote this column using a computer in my home and then e-mailed it to the newspaper. My computer allows me to do research via the Internet. Through the Internet I have access to the same Associated Press stories that are fed into The Tribune-Democrat newsroom.

If I want to get background by looking at previously published stories, I log onto The Tribune-Democrat’s Web site, and by typing in a key word, can find what I’m looking for.

Office programs allow people to put together publications using desk-top computers.

After retiring, I joined the Westwood Kiwanis Club and for the past several years have been putting out a monthly newsletter. My computer almost is a mini-newspaper!

I can take a picture with my digital camera and transfer it to my computer. I can then insert it on a page, change the size to fit the layout and crop it to cut out unwanted portions of the picture.

Just as newspapers use pagination, I can move stories onto a page and use different column layouts and type sizes.

It’s certainly an amazing world we live in.

One has to wonder what will be next.



Jeff McCready is a retired business writer for The Tribune-Democrat.

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