I STARTED my working life at the Hampshire Chronicle in 1965 as an apprentice comp, but very soon graduated on to the line and to my own refurbished Model 4 .
I called it "The Dream" — I eventually learned to clear the 3ft. copy box to my right in one easy bound when I heard the distinctive "clunk" whenever the line misplaced in the jaws and hot metal shot out through the bent mat. Many times I didn't make it and still have those scars we all know about down my left leg. My Times (D7) 7pt (ruby) font suffered badly.
Left Winchester when I came out of my time in 1970 and went to work as a Lino Op on the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley, South Africa — trebled my wage immediately and had the time of my life for three years before relocating within the Argus company up to the Rhodesia Herald in Salisbury working the nightshift on American Blue Streak and Comet machines plus a couple of C4s and a couple of side magazine 78s for ads! Rhodesia was a lovely and beautiful country, Happy days, it's truly disastrous what has occurred there over the last 20 years or so!
Anyway … I went back down to SA in 1976 to The Natal Witness operating Lino 78s and 48s and then finally transferred to Hendrix computer setting in 1977. Working the line for magazines in the morning and the system in the afternoon on the newspaper.
Back to the UK in 1977 and up to Stoke to a position running the old Universal 4, Edit Writer and MSC Compugraphic systems as Systems Manager … and when that hid the skids in 84 I got a position with Crosfield Hastech (the old Hendrix vendor) installing new generation systems as the computer revolution took hold of the industry … if you can't beat 'em join 'em is my philosophy. Worked at the Liverpool Post and Echo on their upgrade and supported Today newspaper after Eddie Shah sold it on.
Since then I have worked with a variety of systems vendors right around the world (Du Pont, PPI, Unisys) from Australia, New Zealand, the US, throughout Europe and of course the UK, selling, installing, supporting and trouble shooting the latest generation of front end systems. I spent 6 months commuting to/from San Francisco for the SF Chronicle and stayed in Boston for thee months with the Boston Herald installation as well as up to Wisconsin in the dead of winter to the wastes of Waupaca in 1999. The longest install I was involved with was at El Correo Espanol in Bilbao and Diario de Vasco in San Sebastian was back in 1989 — also a "revolutionary" system being the first SQL database with which I was involved.
I spent about 9 months at the British Medical Journal in London installing their new system and am about to go back in there for the last knockings of the phase 2 part of the install — luckily I was over in east London at another newspaper when the bus exploded right outside my BMJ office.
I guess I have been doubly lucky in that regard as I left New York on 9/10 to run a presentation in Dublin at the Irish Independent on that tragic day in 2001 … needless to say the presentation finished very early and I took my American colleagues back to London as of course there was no flights back to the US for a week or so.
However, I was made redundant from Unisys soon after then with 3000 others as the company experienced a massive downturn in business as a direct result of that tragedy. I worked for Atex for three months in New York before gaining a similar position in the UK and have spent the last three years or so working at newspapers and magazines here in the British Isles.
At 57 years old I am about to get off the road and semi-retire to my house in France.
But I don't think the current generation of newspaper professionals know what it's like to work in the newsroom on a morning paper when all the machines were at full stretch, running up to 15 lines a minute to get the paper off stone — it was an experience. I loved it and will miss being involved in and around newspapers and those involved with them for the rest of my life.