Thanks to Steve Jobs, a big part of newspapering is easy
Steve Jobs was Bay Weekly’s silent partner.
His Macintosh computers are the machines on which every one of our 933 issues have been made.
Since 1993, when we went to work on Mac Classics, General Manager J. Alex Knoll has been thinking ahead to our next bite of the Apple.
But death stops the clock.
When the future ends, the past steps to the fore. Since Jobs’ death on October 5, I’ve been looking backwards, over the long road we’ve traveled with the Apple genius.
The beige rectangular boxes we started out on look as dated now as the clothes we wore. But back then, they sure were smart. And the power they conveyed was awesome.
Choosing to be a Mac shop put us on the cutting edge of computing.
The original partners — Alex, husband Bill Lambrecht and I — had all learned the new art of word processing on non-Mac systems. The machines transformed our craft — and made our most advanced tools instantly obsolete. My electric IBM Selectric III, the best typewriter money could buy, lumped with every old manual, upright and portable, as just another paper-striker.
Grand as was the power of printing virtually error-free copy (make that copies!), the miracle was how these new machines changed the art of composition. Our stories now grew in all directions, not just down. Imagination became as agile as an octopus.
The machines were good, but not good enough. Working with them was a job, not a pleasure. They didn’t read your mind. They were not, to use Jobs’ phrase, friendly.
That dissatisfaction led us and countless others down the road to Macintosh. By the second half of the 1980s the Mac, introduced in 1983, was the tool of choice among the creative vanguard creating the field of desktop publishing.
The big lesson: The power of the press belongs to the person who owns a Mac — because it’s about the machine. But it’s also about way more.
On the nine-inch screens of those little Mac Classics, we could see the Big Picture. From today’s vantage, you might say that that box of electronics was infused with Jobs’ visionary spirit.
Mac users saw what we could do. Each of us saw something different, something scaled to our size and imaginings. We saw Bay Weekly.
On that little screen, we could draw the newspaper, box by box, the way an architect might draw a house room by room. In and above the boxes, we could add type, in whatever font and face and size we desired.
It was magic, and we had the power.
Had we started just a few years earlier without that magic, every step would have been harder.
Twenty years before Bay Weekly’s birth as New Bay Times, each bit that went into a paper — not only stories but also classified sections, events calendars and even dispay advertisements — had to be set in type using arcane code while images and artwork were separately photographed and dropped into place. Find an error before press? Get out the Exacto knives.
In Bay Weekly’s early years, we still used Exacto knives, to correct last-minute errors in type before we delivered the physical camera-ready pages to our printer in Waldorf.
Over time, the ever-more-powerful Macintosh computers freed us of more and more of these physical tasks. Mac by Mac, our electronic pages grew fuller. Ads, once made separately and pasted into place, were soon imported onto the computerized page. Scanned photos and illustrations were dropped into place, sized and cropped, all on the computer screen.
Before we could measure the change, the whole paper was on the Mac: words, pictures and images collected, assembled and transmitted electronically to our printer with the click of a mouse, another Mac innovation.
Now, of course, we could do it all on our iPhones, if we didn’t mind working small. While listening to music on our iPods.
In the big picture, Steve Jobs reshaped the whole world. In our littler picture, Jobs gave us the Macs to create a world and name it Bay Weekly.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; firstname.lastname@example.org