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Tuesday (How we operate) edition: Wha' Happened?

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • July 16, 2013 - 12:09 PM

We are getting an iPhone 5 today, replacing our iPhone 4, and that means we spent some time this morning sifting through a few things that would otherwise be lost in the process. The bulk of this involved backing up/moving about 2,000 photos (we also saved a few non-essential iPhone notes because, well, why not?).

Before the Internet, moving 2,000 photos would have involved picking up six or seven heavy photo albums and physically transporting them to another place. Losing those photo albums would have meant the photos were gone forever (or that you had to develop 2,000 pictures again, if you happened to have the negatives). Today, it took about 20 minutes and our back feels terrific. The pictures look exactly the same as when we took them. Amazing.

As we were preparing for this digital upgrade, we were struck once again not just about the ease of technology, but how much it has changed how we do our job. We are old enough to remember being a college journalist in the mid-to-late-1990s, going on the road for a sporting event, and having it be some sort of modern miracle if/when a story was transported back to the home office of the Minnesota Daily back at the U of M. Usually it didn't work and we would end up writing a story on a really bad laptop and then either driving it back to campus (it was a M-F operation then, and the web site was pretty much nonexistent) or, if it was on deadline, dictating several hundred words to a not-so-eager listener on the other line, who would then type it in.

In 2000, we had one of our earlier travel assignments at the Star Tribune covering the NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis. The Gophers were a strong team and would go on to win NCAA titles in 2001 and 2002, which we also covered. But at this event, on the very first night we were in town, we were sending in an advance story from our hotel room. This, of course, involved dial-up internet, and we had the flimsiest cord/connection into our laptop. Seriously, it went into the phone jack just fine, but the piece going into the laptop was about as stable as the foil on top of a cup of yogurt.

In any event, we had the cord connected and we were about to send the story. The laptop was sitting on the bed. We then got up to check one more fact from a sheet a few feet away. When we went to sit down, we forgot about the outstretched cord, which we snagged on our leg and ripped clean out of the laptop.

It was naturally broken, with exposed wires everywhere. In our frantic panic, we attempted to jam it back together, as if it had any hope of working. And it did not. We spent the next four days in St. Louis trying to fix our one source of Internet connection, this flimsy dial-up situation, and nothing worked. So that means we also spent four days dictating stories back to the Star Tribune on deadline, which was not at all fun (this was done from land lines, of course, because we didn't even have a cell phone until 2001).

Long story short, if we did the same thing in 2013 with, say, a FAR MORE STABLE Ethernet cable, which we haven't even used in years because there is wifi everywhere, we would have a million other ways (approximately) to still access the Internet and send stories. And if we so choose, sometimes for certain assignments all we carry with us is an iPhone. It can record audio, it can shoot pictures, it can shoot video, we can take notes on it, it can send e-mail, text, tweets, Instagram, etc. This would have required an audio recorder, camera, video recorder, notebook and laptop (not to mention an active imagination) even a scant few years ago.

The stories we tell haven't really changed, but man oh man the way to gather up all the information and the speed at which they can be told sure has. And we're not even that old. NO, 36 IS NOT THAT OLD.

We try to think about this every time we get annoyed that the iPhone 5 has a different cord than the iPhone 4.

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