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Editor’s Confession: Sorry, but I do miss my typewriter.

Jodie Jackson Jr

Hands up among everyone who once had a MacChimney on their personal computer. Anyone? 

Really? You mean you don’t know or have never heard of a MacChimney? It was all the rage about 40 years ago, the product of the innovation and technology boom that made typewriters obsolete almost overnight with the advent of desktop publishing. 

I’ll rewind a bit and restart this trip down memory lane. October 1979. I was a junior in high school, age 16, and was fairly certain I already knew just about everything there was to know about journalism (and most of life) — or at least the important things. Such is the mind of a 16-year-old. Now take that big-headed ego getting hired by the local community newspaper publisher, give that know-it-all his own office — his own office — and pay him twenty-five bucks a week to write school news for The Belle Banner. (Voila, a journalism career was born.) 

That was me, not yet driving, but just a two-minute bike ride either to my house or to The Banner office in bustling downtown Belle, Missouri. On my first day at the job, the publisher, Norman B. Gallager, showed me to my office — my own office — and, as he asked me, “Do you know how to type?” he plopped an ancient Royal typewriter down in front of me. The short but not completely true answer was, “Yes,” because I just happened to be in typing class at school. 

Mr. Gallagher laughed and exited, leaving me to stare at a typewriter so old and used that all the characters were worn off the keys. I was at once terrified and mesmerized. It’s still one of the most beautiful pieces of manual word making that I’ve ever seen. 

Who needed the impending innovation and new technology of desktop publishing? I’d type stories, hand them off to a typesetter who retyped the stories onto another gadget, and that produced a galley of letters and words that were affixed to a blank page that was photographed and turned into an aluminum plate. From there, the plates went on the ancient press where, as I recall, men who were just as ancient as the typewriter and the press made the massive, clunky beast print the next edition of The Banner

I was sure I’d seen the secrets of the universe. What could be better? 

Fast forward a few years and the team at Warden Publishing in Owensville, Missouri, where I worked as sports and news editor of the Gasconade County Republican, made the switch to MacIntosh computers and the PageMaker software (version Aldus 1.0) to get galleys of text that we ran through a waxer (“text side up, Jackson!”), then pasted on a blank page with the use of T-squares, pica gauges, and proportion wheels. And because one of the guys in the room heard that the newfangled Macs could overheat, he bought into the need to place a MacChimney on top of the units to funnel heat away from the electronic brains. 

To complete the ensemble — and for laughs — I found an old ad clip art book and cut out my own MacSanta to shinny up the MacChimney. 

And now I’m writing this editor’s letter — my first for COMO Business Times — on an Asus laptop that weighs less than my 4-pound Maltese. The entire process, from writing to printing, is digital. It’s been that way for a couple or more decades now, though I do miss my old typewriter. 

But I’m left to wonder, as I introduce you to this month’s “Innovation and Technology” issue, what new and improved thing that we have in 2024 will someday be remembered in the same vein as the MacChimney?  

(If you do relate to my MacChimney memories, I welcome your email. If you’re ready to predict what will be remembered as a MacChimney, give me a holler, as well.) 

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