Rita’s Howells column

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2007

Old computers got jealous, chaos followed

On my bulletin board is pinned the business card of a  consultant, Lisa Griffin.

After another week with conditions deteriorating around this office, I’m pinning my hopes on Lisa.

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The Panolian staff members are fine.

It’s the computers that are causing the headaches.

Like overripe bananas, our Apples are past their prime.

The machines and the software we use to build the pages of this newspaper are circa 1996, which makes them obsolete.

We’ve been making do for a while, coaxing, sweet-talking, threatening, hitting, moaning and re-starting.

Then we gave up and bought a brand new computer and up-to-date software for Debbie Parker, our bookkeeper. After all, if she’s not happy, nobody gets paid.

As soon as the new kid on the block arrived, all the other machines became jealous. It was very obvious.

Like many offices, we use a “server” to which all the computers are connected. This allows everyone access to all the stories,  photos, ads and other elements that go into this newspaper.

Someone writes a story. Someone else reads it and makes corrections. Someone else places it onto a page. Someone else makes final adjustments. No one has to leave their chair to do this.

The server takes the place of the “copy boy” you see in old movies. A crusty old newsman yells “copy” and an energetic young man runs up, grabs the freshly typed page from his hand, and delivers it hastily to an editor.

That’s what the server does. Or did.

When the newest Macintosh arrived and was plugged into the server, all the old models refused to speak to her. They even stopped speaking to each other.

Chaos ensued.

The cold shoulder treatment was gradual at first. Initially Billy’s computer wouldn’t speak to the rest of us. Then Jason’s. Emily’s will still cooperate sometimes, but I think it’s sympathy because she’s expecting.

John’s old green egg-shaped iMac seemed especially irritating to mine, which is newer, so I asked him to unplug and he went to New Orleans.

As I write this, only my machine and Myra’s are holdouts to the clique. They are the only computers with which we can produce newspaper pages.

This has brought much confusion, aggravation, and frustration to the bi-weekly publication of The Panolian.

It has made the news staff later than usual, so our presses run later than usual, and our inserters have to stick around later than usual to stuff, and our Monday and Thursday night readers have to circle the parking lot for hours.

Which brings me back to Lisa.

I wonder if she realizes how much all of us are counting on her.

On Monday she is supposed to come in, unpack the dozens of boxes of new Apple equipment (currently stacked on the floors of our office), plug them all in, and teach them all to work with each other and us.

If this doesn’t happen quickly, I’ll be placing an ad with Beverly, our classified specialist.

“Help wanted: Copy boy. Apply immediately.”