As we examine the media in subsequent chapters, we shall discuss how each uses the new technologies. Here, to provide an overview of their cumulative impact, is a brief summary of how electronics has altered our major means of communication.
In earlier days newspaper stories were typed or hand written on copypaper, then set into lines of hot metal type on a Linotype machine, eight lines per minute. Mer manual correction by a proofreader, the lines were assembled in a metal page form. A soft cardboardlike sheet, rolled under heavy pressure, drew off an image of the page. This sheet was placed in a machine into which hot lead was poured, and the type image was thus transferred to a half-circular led form called a stereotype late. This heavy plate was locked onto the press for printing. The system was slow, cumbersome, and error prone.
Compare that with today 8 electronie newsroom: A reporter types a story on a video display terminal keyboard, corrects it on the terminal screen, and dispatches it inio .a central computer. Editors call it up onto their screens for editing and headline writing, then with a push of a button release it· into a phototypesetting machine, from which it emerges at speeds .up to 4000 lines a minute 88 type on paper strips. These strips are pasted onto a sheet the size of a newspaper page, and this in turn is run through a plate-making machine that produces a printing plate weighing only ounces.
An even faster form of newspaper production, pagination, is just coming into extensive use. Under this system an entire newspaper page is made up electronically on a videoscreen, then \ .; by a push of a button is transmitted directly onto a printing plate. This process virtually eliminates the composing room of a newspaper. Control over the type and news pictures on each page lies entirely in the hands of newsroom personnel.
By use of digital processing, news photo services have begun to deliver better photographs to newspapers in less time. When an ordinary photograph is fed into this new machinery, its content is transformed into digital signals. An editor can call up the picture on a screen, enhance areas of it to improve its appearance, crop (cut) it to desired dimensions, then order it transmitted in digital form to subscribing clients
Down in the pressroom, where the newspaper is printed, intriguing changes are taking place, too. One or. these is development of magnetically charged ink that “leaps” onto the newsprint without actual pressure.
Some, newspapers add to their regular publications with presentation of the news on cable television in text form. This leads to the concept of the “electronic newspaper” — delivery of
the daily newspaper on the home screen rather than to the front doorstep in newsprint form. Tests to date indicate, however, that the public prefers electronic news as a supplement to print newspapers rather than as a replacement for them.
Dispatches from the news services formerly arrived in newsrooms on rolls of paper emerging from a clattering teletype machine. Now they are transmitted from a news service’s computer by satellite into the newspaper’s computer, ready for editing. Typewriters and paper have virtually disappeared from newsrooms.
Radio disc jockeys of an earlier era broadcast music entirely by playing phonograph records made of vinyl, either short ones at 45 rpm or long-playing ones at 33 rpm. In fact pioneer disk jockeys played some 78 rpm records, now almos forgotten except by record collectors. Today much of the music if> contained on tape cassettes, as are commercials. Laser digital recordings called compact discs, a third form of recorded music, have exceptional fidelity. A laser is an intense beam of light energy created when solid, liquid, gas, or plasma molecules are excited by electricity, heat, or other means. Sales of the CDs are multiplying swiftly, and radio stations have begun to use them in broadcasts
For decades radio network programmers were delivered to affiliated attestation from their point of origin by telephone circuit over a microwave relay system that replaced the still-older overhead wires. Today network “feeds” are delivered to the stationary satellite.
Since the creation of satellite transmission, cable television has immensely enlarged the scope of programmes available to viewers in homes wired to receive it. The. cable systeIIUIreceive a number of programmes by satellite and deliver them by cable to subscribers’ sets. Using computerized text and graphics, many systems distribute national and local summaries, along with weather information and the time, to home screens.
In another form of transmission called direct broadcast satellite (DBS), television programmes bounced off a satellite are picked up directly by home reception dishes, bypassing the cable system entirely., Some organizations that distribute programmes by satellite have begun to scramble the transmissions to prevent owners of home dishes from watching them without paying. Decoding attachments purchased from the organizations are needed to unscramble the transmissions, and monthly fees are charged for viewing privileges
Equally dramatic, and just coming into use, are news and information services that allow viewers to call up onto their screens the information they wish. This is information on demand. The simpler form, called teletext, is a one-way system that displays indexes, or menus, of the material stored in the computer from which viewers, by pushing the proper buttons, can bring onto the screen the things they wish to see. These include
such information as news bulletins, stock market reports, entertainment guides, games, community service listings, and airline schedules
The more complex form of on-demand service is called videotex. It is a two-way system. On videotex. viewers call up what they wish to watch and, by using telephone circuits, are able to respond to what they have seen. For example, they may order goods they have seen on the screen, conduct banking operations, answer questions posed to them on the screen-plus, of course, watching whatever type of news they wish. On some systems they can send electronic mail, computer to computer
In fact, the marriage of the computer and the telephone is at the heart of much new communication technology. Use of ari instrument called a modem enables computer signals to travel by telephone.
Anxious to participate in electronic news delivery, numerous newspapers have leased cable channels and begun / delivery of textual news summaries and video newscasts to homes. Their actions blur the traditional dividing line between print and broadcast journalism. This has created legal problems. Under the First Amendment, newspapers are free to publish anything they wish within such legal boundaries as libel and privacy. But the broadcasting industry does not have First Amendment protection, although efforts to obtain it are being made. Is a story published in a newspaper under First Amendment protection when transmitted on the newspaper’s cable news channel? Or is it subject to possible government broadcast rules? This is only one of numerous still-unanswered questions raised by the arrival of teletext and videotex.
Much of television’s progress as a dispenser of news and entertainment was made possible by the creation of videotape, on which sights and sounds are recorded magnetically. Earlier, a television camera crew in the field made a film of the news event, then had it developed in a laboratory in a time-consuming operation before it was aired. With videotape, which can be erased and is then reusable, a TV news photographer sends the sound and pictures back to the studio by microwave, satellite, or vehicle There it can be put on the air almost immediately because no developing process is involved.
From this original use of videotape, hundreds of other applications emerged. When the videocassette recorder (VCR) for home taping and viewing came onto the market, the booming video industry was born.
Still other television innovations are emerging from the laboratories and being offered to consumers. Television programmes in stereo are broadcast in growing numbers on some commercial stations. Sets using flat picture tubes are less than two inches thick, small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. High definition television will bring viewers clearer, sharper pictures. A system recently developed in Japan scans 1125 lines a minute, compared to the American standard 525 lines, greatly increasing picture detail. A bit further into the future will come digital television. By. replacing receiver components with computer circuits, reduce color TV production costs and cut down on ghost like screen images
Technological and economic factors will determine how soon some of these innovations become everyday realities. Although in certain cases they may change shape from present expectations, the cumulative effect of the new forms will be intense.