Without even realizing, I had become “good” at something other than writing. I had become good at “computer stuff.” I can’t tell you how un-sexy that was at the time. Just trust me, it was far from hot, far from cool, and really really far from. . ., well now.
For a high school senior class gift, the graduating class of 1988 gave the school a fully-networked Macintosh computer lab (with a freakin Mac II server!!). Those little black and white macs were loaded up with Aldus PageMaker 1.0 and networked to a “Laser” printer (we looked. never found the laser).
By the time I started spending weekends assembling the monthly publication with the rest of the staff, we were a 100% digital production. Of course, at the time 100% digital meant we printed out portions of “pages”, carefully carved them up as needed with xacto knives (2-3 emergency room visits per year on average), ran them through a hot waxer, then stuck them in place on light blue grid-paper sheets. It was your typical auto-manual operation.
Important detail. On the high school and college papers (at least back then), we didn’t have “designers.” Sure, we had artists and cartoonists, but they drew pictures, scoffed at photographers and played with PMS swatches. Layouts where a sort of team effort – very much contingent on the actual copy being flowed. Similarly, Photos were always in need of “correction,” and the aptly named Photoshop 1.0 did just that. Designers were old dudes who knew about color wheels and maintaining register with 4 color process offsets during overnight print runs — these were not computer people.
So, we had writers, photographers, artists, researchers (freshmen) and, of course, editors. All this to say, if, as an editor, you wanted your pages printed, posted, and pasted by press time, you would be wise to learn a little PageMaker and probably a bit of Photoshop just in case.
Maybe it was my experience typing lines of basic programs into my Commodore 64 at 7, or maybe it was the year I spent trying to get WordPerfect to honor page-breaks on my piece-build fake IBM PC AT (complete with Amber monitor). Or maybe it was all those nights in high school I spent popping 3.5” floppys in and out of my Commodore Amiga to load the entire Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards game into RAM. Whatever the reason, I graduated high school with a lot more technical knowledge than I realized at the time. In fact, I was so comfortable in front of a computer, it never occurred to me that others might not be. So for all my natural “interest” in these computers, they were just tools. Of course they were better than our parents typewriters – just like CD’s were better than cassettes. So I can use a computer. So what? You can’t?
Were it not for this utter lack of awareness, I might not have ever learned to hate marketing the way I do now. I can’t say for sure either way, but I know this. If I had even the slightest understanding that I was already 2-3 years ahead of my peers in technical knowledge and ability, I would not have waited until I was 35 to begin a career in technology.
Of course, in this alternate reality, I likely would not have come to such a complete understanding of how “marketing” is the very incarnation of all that is wrong with the universe (yes, universe). I surely wouldn’t feel this strongly about it, because I wouldn’t believe it even if you told me. Just as you are giggling now, wondering if such hyperbole is a hyper focused postulation or just a cranky rant, so would I be giggling. I mean this is marketing we’re talking about here, right?
Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Thought that “good writer” thing could pay some bills while I sought out my dream job or banged out that first book.
Well, a funny thing happened on my way to that dream job.
Part 3 Coming Shortly . . .