The Jefferson Iowa News®


  Herald Unveils Long-Awaited Computer Updates

Representatives of the Jefferson Bee and Herald proudly unveiled newly-acquired equipment last week that it feels will finally, at long-last, drive themselves forward into the twenty-first century. The local paper had previously continually lagged behind other area newspapers in the area of computer and information technologies. While papers in Carroll, Boone, and even smaller communities such as Coon Rapids and even Scranton had in recent years developed web pages and internet sites, none was forthcoming from the Bee and Herald. Out-of-state former Jefferson residents found it difficult to follow the happenings in their home town.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce and other Jefferson civic leaders were on hand when the Bee and Herald unveiled what they consider the "state-of-the-art" computer hardware recently installed in their business on North Wilson. Purchased from Unisys, the equipment consists of a UNIVAC I mainframe computer, featuring twelve tanks of liquid mercury, creating a core memory of 2000 words. There are nine reel-to-reel tape drives, using metal tapes, and an entire wall of vacuum tubes forming their circuits. A series of magnetic amplifiers are based on toroidal stainless steel spools and wound with #60 copper wire, replacing the "less reliable" transistors commonly found in cheaper models.

A transmitting vacuum tube produces a powerful high-voltage signal, stepped down to a 36-volt clock by oil-filled transformers which are distributed about the machine. All together, this impressive behemoth fills the entire back room of the Bee and Herald, which was enlarged specifically for this purpose. It is capable of using COBOL as well as FORTRAN operating systems. Another, smaller room has been added as a place where over 40,000 bundles of punch cards can be stored, which will be used in tandem with these programs.

Two progammers will be promoted from within the current staff and trained in the basics of preparing programs for punching onto cards by keypunch operators. The number of field reporters employed by the Bee and Herald will remain at zero.

Jefferson Bee and Herald spokesmen stress that it is hoped the updates will not negatively impact the quality or appearance of the paper. It will remain ridiculously over-sized, and the fonts will stay the same, along with the traditional, fuzzy, black-and-white photographs. Content of the paper will not be altered in any way.

There are currently no plans to address the lack of internet access for would-be readers of the paper. The above-described computer hardware is apparently incapable of accessing the internet by any means, although future upgrades are always a possibility. Jefferson residents are being asked to reduce their power usage on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between noon and 4:00 PM when the computer will be in use, in order to avoid possible brown-outs due to the massive amounts of electricity this machine will require.

 Spencer Straight, 09-26-2009