Celebrating 25 years of publishing

Published July 16, 2019


She ‘fixed’ my computer with a No. 2 pencil

By John Toth / The Bulletin

Twenty-one years ago, a little girl sat down at her father’s desk, took a pencil and shoved it into the floppy drive of The Bulletin’s main computer.

I have told this story a few times before, but since this is The Bulletin’s 25th anniversary, I just have to tell it again - maybe the last time. Probably not.

It is funny now, but on that day it was something different - more like panic time.

Stephanie was four years old, and she was playing newspaper production. She probably knew that the paper’s main computer needed routine maintenance, and she decided to perform it.

Unfortunately, her timing was somewhat off. We were on deadline, just about to transfer articles written for the paper from a floppy disk to the hard drive.

Back in those days, we didn’t have the Internet to bounce articles back and forth. Our writers used a floppy disk that fit into a floppy drive. That way they could write articles anywhere and just give us the disk when they were done.

We had a main disk that stored most of the articles. They were also edited on the disk. Then we stuck the floppy into a drive and transferred everything over to the main computer to be laid out. We were still feeling our way around, trying to find the least risky and most efficient method to produce the paper. The floppy disk part had some risks, as we found out.

I heard a sweet little voice coming from my office. “Daddy, I fixed it.”

Those were scary words coming from a four-year-old. Fixed what? I hoped she didn’t. Nothing was broken.

There she sat by my computer, proudly exhibiting her work - a Number 2 pencil poking out of its floppy drive. It was time for my heart to stop.

Maybe there was no damage inside the drive. Maybe I got there just in time.

I didn’t get there on time, and the drive was gone. It could not read the little plastic disk. The light that signaled that it was working remained dark. It didn’t make any of the noises usually associated with a disk being read. It was as dead as a doornail.

And so was I. None of the text for the next paper could be transferred, and we were on deadline. There was no time to be angry.

I remembered that I saw one of those drives in Lake Jackson a few days earlier. All I had to do was install it and hope that we could go back to paper production rather than tech work. I didn’t mind doing tech work, but being close to press run made tech work less enjoyable.

It was a long ride there, and even a longer one back as I thought of all the things that could go wrong. What if I did something wrong and knocked out the whole computer?

Then it was time for action. You have never seen someone be more careful along each step of the way. I knew what I was doing, but made doubly sure there were no mistakes. I plugged everything into the right place, and then it was ready. Time to see if it worked.

Those startup sounds were sweet. I never appreciated them more. The light on the drive started blinking. Time to flip in the disk and see what happens.

The story directory popped up on the screen. Success. Time to celebrate, but there was no time.
That sweet little girl was off the hook. I also didn’t have time to punish her, but I did pick up all the pencils in the house - and everything else that could be used to “fix” the computer again.

She has since grown up and has not “fixed” any more computers. She is now publisher-in-training to make sure that The Bulletin continues for many more years. We have come full circle - minus the No. 2 pencil.

(I look forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.}