Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The little Trib

The 10th is the aluminum anniversary. So you'd think at least there would be a CD in the works to mark the founding of the Chicago Tribune Web site.

Instead, that milestone gets an extremely modest appreciation today far down the chicagotribune.com front page, eclipsed by reporter Kevin Pang's memorial to his dead iPod.

A boss calls my MP3 player the "Soviet iPod" — it's strapped to a pacemaker of four AA batteries, and it crashes my computer every time I try to sync. Yet I hang on. I am slow to jettison serviceable media (I completely skipped over the candy-bar generation of cell phones while nursing a Motorola TAC brick) so when ct.com's origins are recalled I believe attention must be paid.

What was then the chicago.tribune.com index had very little news then and was soon to show even less, with a pre-portal front page designed for primordial laptops. But its staff (an extension of an AOL project) saw a future in which all information was within reach, and hired me for its classified search.

Cyberspace already has a long time line: ARPAnet and CompuServe launched in 1969, Usenet in '79 and of course Al Gore invented the Internet in 1991. In the 1980s I worked at the Chicago Sun-Times bureau that was broadcasting teletext on the vertical blanking interval of Channel 32; the Trib was experimenting with fax newsletters and something called America Online. But it is kind of freaky that early in my career computer storage meant the pegboard where the copy desk hung rolls of teletype tape.

Newspapers are still trying to envision a future on the Internet. Regional portal? On-demand broadcaster? Blog aggregator? Whatever its form, it will start from an experiment. So we must appreciate starting small.

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