Back in 1977 I was among the first newsroom users of a new DEC front-end system for word processing, content management and pagination. It was so primitive by today’s standards that we had to hard code our copy as we were writing stories, headlines and cutlines. Baffling at first, it didn’t take long before we trained our fingers and brains to write the code as seamlessly as we wrote complex sentences.
It’s been years since writers included their own coding; all those back-end, mind-bending strings of incomprehensible letters, numbers and symbols disappeared into a button or keystroke. Until, that is, I had to unravel the strings that make my new template work. There they were, brackets and equals signs, double quotation marks, squiggles and symbols I thought I’d forgotten. Reading code is a bit like reading music; if you’re good at it, you can see the results in your head just as you hear the music.
I’m not good at it, so it takes a lot of trial and error key stroking. But, I’m getting better. Slowly, I am seeing the pages in the code strings. Just like the old days.
Another proof that even long-unused skills sets don’t go wasted.