For public-safety voice, evolution is inevitable
My father worked for nearly a quarter century at the Chicago Tribune. He was a printer. Or at least that’s what he was when he started at the newspaper. This was in the days of the hot-type printing process. Reporters would write, editors would edit, and eventually an operator would retype the approved copy into a contraption known as a Linotype machine.
As the operator typed, the machine would squirt molten lead into a form; the result was lead slugs that would be positioned in composing trays — that was my father’s job — according to the layout provided by the editors. Those trays would be inked and pages would be printed from them. When the print run was complete, the slugs would be tossed into the “hell box” so that the lead could be re-melted for future use.
After a decade or so, technology changed. The new way of printing was a process known as cold type. The key difference was that the type no longer appeared in the form of lead slugs but rather on long strips of paper called galleys; wax would be applied to the back of the galleys, and they were cut and pasted onto an art board — again, according to the layout provided by the editor. The art boards were photographed, and the resulting negative was used to chemically etch the printing plates. My father was one of those doing the cutting and pasting, after being retrained. He no longer was a printer; he was a keyliner.
After another decade or so, the Tribune, like hundreds of newspapers and magazines across the country, introduced computers into the newsroom. Pages now could be assembled on a computer screen, which made typesetters and keyliners obsolete. This development sparked some interesting and heart-wrenching conversations between me and my father. It is not easy to see a man lose his livelihood, especially in middle age. But I had started my publishing career at that point and understood why this was necessary.
I thought of my father as I read the cover story by Senior Writer Donny Jackson in next month’s print edition. In it, the case is made that land-mobile radio eventually will suffer the same fate that befell my father so long ago, because it is a mortal lock that mission-critical voice over broadband one day — perhaps in as little as 10 years or as many as 50 — will come to the public-safety sector.
I am certain that there were several thriving buggy-whip manufacturers before Henry Ford figured out how to mass-produce the automobile. The buggy-whip manufacturers either reinvented themselves, or they disappeared. Yes, someday, LMR will cease to exist. You can’t stop progress. But history has shown that such an event might not be such a bad thing. Given enough time, something better always comes along.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.