All On Paper

By Deane Barker on August 4, 2011

HOW TO BUILD A NEWSROOM TIME MACHINE: A group of students from Florida Atlantic University got a grant to generate an entire issue of their student newspaper in the same way newspaper used to do it decades ago – manually, sans technology.  They called the project “All on Paper.”

It’s a pretty amazing story about how journalism has changed so rapidly:

Managing editor Mariam Aldhahi was stymied after typing her first line. “What do I do now?” she asked. “There’s no RETURN key.”

I pointed to the lever that would propel the carriage back to the left, while the gears inside would simultaneously ratchet the paper to the next line.

She tapped it lightly.

“No, this is a manual typewriter,” I told her. “You actually have to expend some calories.”

I slammed the lever to the right, and the carriage flew back to the left margin, stopping with a thud. A look of understanding, laced with horror, crossed her face.

“It’s going to be like this the entire time, isn’t it?”

“Not at all,” I said. “It gets worse.”

It goes on and on – they had to set up a photo darkroom in the men’s bathroom, they had to typeset and paste-up columns themselves, etc.  I’m on a sidelines, and even I find it pretty amazing that things have changed that much.



  1. One of the reasons I love Neal Stephenson is that he does get how much things have changed, not only during our lifetimes but through the range of the Enlightenment period.

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