‘From four heads to zillions of fonts’

It has been said that: ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. Well take heart fellow dinosaurs, this can be proved wrong! Who would have thought when I first started to work at St John’s 40 years ago, that I would have ‘mastered’ so much new technology, by the time I left. (Well, mastered is a bit of an overstatement, I have often got by on a wing and a prayer.)

In 1976 the height of technology was acquiring a new ‘head’ for the electronic typewriter. For my younger readers a ‘head’ was a device which had to be fixed individually by hand onto the typewriter in order to achieve a change of font. I had four ‘heads’ in all, from which I could choose the following fonts: Courier, Arial, Italic and Times New Roman. If you find any old copies of the notice sheet from the 70s and 80s you will see them. There are of course zillions of fonts now and choosing the right one for the task, mood, design, etc. takes a great deal more time.

On to more exciting things. Letters and document could take ages, especially if you made mistakes. Frequent use of ‘tippex’ (what’s that?) was required, or you simply had to start again if you left out something vital. At a pinch you could ‘cut and paste’. This really happened of course, it wasn’t just a name for moving something around in the text. So scissors, a ruler and glue stick were vital tools of the trade.

Printing as we know it was a thing of the future; instead we had carbon copies and a Banda machine. Real printing was done by printers on a printing machine. Fortunately St John’s had their very own printer, Phil Jackson, who faithfully printed our notice sheet every week in the ‘Print Room’.

By the time I returned to the staff team as Office Assistant in 2003 things had moved on apace. We had email, and a delete button, and computers, and mobile phones the size of bricks, and mice. I had taken exams in word processing and achieved the European Driving License (this was a computer qualification in case you think I was holidaying abroad on the church finances). I was now computer literate – well almost, despite being over 35 yrs!

Things started to be a lot more challenging… especially for those over 35 (probably 45 by now), but help was at hand if you could find someone under 35 who had done IT at school. I discovered that no sooner had I a mastered some new bit of technology or software, than three more new forms appeared from nowhere like rabbits. I settled for the realisation that some people were always going to be a lot better than me at all this new stuff.

Then Jon Foster came along with ideas of a new kind of email for us all, and for this I had to learn HTML. (I had always wondered about the funny, seemingly meaningless strings of letters and symbols which occasionally appeared alongside text in emails.) The fact that I had never bothered to find out what they were proved that I was a dinosaur, it seemed.

Well, I now entered a whole new and exciting world; the world of the internet and the website and the ‘Roundup’. The thing is, it truly was exciting, and I enjoyed the challenge of doing posts for the website and links to our Weekly Roundup, and playing at being younger than 35.

As for Social Media, well I can do Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and all that stuff, but we were a team so I left that to Fran! However, I am quite good at SPAG*
All good things come to an end, and so the time has come for me to leave the world of communications at St John’s behind. No more new tricks for me for a while.

I can truly say that I have enjoyed providing information for you all and helping the mission of the church, and I wish the new team every success.

I have often said to those who inquire, that I learned all I know about communicating effectively from my journalist husband, Peter. So I need to thank him posthumously, as well as all the others who have helped me along the way.

*Spelling, punctuation and grammar

Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters …. for it is Christ you are serving.”

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