REMEMBER WHEN: The Advertiser joins the age of the computer

Welcome to Remember When..., which sees assistant editor Nicola Hine take a weekly look back through our archives, spanning nearly 150 years, to bring you snapshots from Maidenhead's past.

Reporter:

Nicola Hine

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It was all change at the Advertiser back in September 1981 with the introduction of the first computer into the newspaper’s production process.

A fancy Hendrix HS45 system based on a PDP 11/04 computer (no, we don’t know what that was either but it sounds impressive) was unveiled at our then Queen Street home.

It was linked to an equally cutting edge Compugraphic 8600 CRT phototypesetter which was capable of outputting 500 lines a minute of text from 4.5 to 120 point (text size) in 120 typefaces that were then cut up and pasted to make up pages.

It was the latest innovation in the production of the paper which, the Advertiser reported at the time, began with the introduction of steam printing in the paper’s Broadway works in the late 19th century.

Already in 1981 the days of ‘hot metal’ – trays of type put together by highly skilled compositors – were long gone, replaced in 1969 by lithographic printing where text and pictures were transferred to thin metal cylinders in place of heavy plates.

Former editor Tom Middleton recalled: “When this method was introduced all metal type disappeared from the Advertiser’s printing works.

“That most nostalgic aroma to printers and reporters alike – a mixture of paraffin and printer’s ink – which hung around composing rooms was never smelled again.”

He continued: “Perhaps the most striking of all the changes which this modern technology brought to the Advertiser, for those of us who were reared on hot metal, is the new floor of the composing room. It’s carpeted.

“The computer has cleaned us up.”

He observed the one thing that had not changed was the job of the reporter – while technology was there to help them, he said as long as you had a reporter with a sheet of paper and pencil, you had a newspaper.

Nowadays you might just want to add a smartphone and an internet connection to that.

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