Did you happen to see or hear something about the McKean County Crimestoppers selling 911 Emergency Kits? The kits contain light controllers which convert porch lights or interior lights near windows into flashing beacons when turned on twice (double-clicked, we computer junkies would say.

 

Thatís a great idea, in that it helps ambulance, fire or police personnel locate the residence where help is needed.

 

In fact, itís such a great idea that thereís at least one mail order company selling a device called ďEmerga-Lite Flashing Home Indicator.Ē Confusing name, because you might think it indicates a flashing house. Donít know how they could rearrange the name without making the device seem to indicate the flashing on the house. Itís supposed to have a ďstrobe lightĒ effect after all.

 

The major difference I see is that Emerga-Lite costs $29 plus the ubiquitous P&H, whereas the Crimestopper light kit costs $12. So far the outlets are Phil Smith Electronics in Smethport and the Bradford Chamber of Commerce (in Bradford, logically enough).

 

The light converter is said not to interfere with the usual operation mode of the light. So I canít think of any drawbacks other than the possibility of accidentally triggering the device, which the occupant probably would realize soon enough to turn it off before there could be any untoward results.

 

I bet police, fire fighters and ambulance crews would be tickled to pieces if we all got equipped with the light flashers.

 

Have you been seeing woodchucks? Of course you have, if you live out in the country. But some of us right in the heart of the Port metropolis have seen the furry critters. Remember the story in the kidsí reader about the city mouse and the country mouse? We must have town chucks and country chucks. (Then thereís the literary Chuck whose property is partly in the borough and partly in the township. Whole nother species.)

 

And so on. See, that was how we used to write stuff for the Reporter Argus. I found a print-out of the whole column, and lots of others, and school board and borough council meetings and features and whatnot. These were in a filing cabinet I was cleaning out a couple days ago.

 

Some things certainly have not changed. I am still obsessing about woodchucks. The literary Chuck is still up there straddling the borough-township line, but officially residing and voting in the township.

 

I doubt that those same Crimestoppers are still doing their neighborhood protecting thing, and I donít think people are using whose flashing beacons anymore (although, what could it hurt?). But for sure I donít prepare copy like that these days.

 

No date was on the copy. Letís see. I must have been using my trusty Hackintosh, which was an Atari ST1040 with a Mac EPROM burned to an Atari cartridge and stuck into the STís cartridge port, thus convincing it that it was a Macintosh. This allowed it to run Mac software, such as JustText, which Joey Majot provided to me.

 

That way I could write my stuff for the RA at my office and save it to a 3.25-inch floppy formatted as a Mac disc, and Joey could transport it to Coudersport where it would be fed to a Mac and interpreted as typeset copy. All that gibberish in curly braces? Typesetting commands. PostScript. As I began to copy it for this column, it started to come back, and pretty soon it was automatic again.

 

Setting up the three columns, defining their size and location. Establishing the font, its size in points, and the ledding or line spacing also in points. Making the columns justified, centering the bullets. Doing a quad-left to feed a line and go to the left, then indenting an em-space. (Thatís an indent the width of an m, and it is pronounced like m and spelled ďem.Ē)

 

Now typesetting is so automated by software, we writers donít see it and we donít write the instructions in curly braces, and we donít have to know anything about PostScript to produce copy for newspapers.

 

There are still PostScript-capable printers, though. I didnít have one when I wrote that column, so when I produced a hardcopy of it for my files, it came out on fan-folded 16-pound printer paper with sprocket-punched perf strips at the sides.

 

That tells me it was printed on the AtariWriter printer, an impact printer that inked its print bars from sponge wheels (I found adding machine ones for replacements) that had to be re-inked periodically. I recognize the proportional font. It was not one produced by the giant C. Itoh printer, which came later.

 

Wow. Everything must have taken a lot more work, then. Somehow it all worked pretty well. But I prefer the hardware and software we use now, and shipping everything including photos to the newsroom as e-mail attachments, and receiving news from many sources the same way.

 

E drymar@gmail.com. Skype lilimartini.