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Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015: Here's why sports reporters hate election night

   Leading off today: Pardon the interruption, but I'll start off your Wednesday with two thoughts near and dear to the hearts of sportswriters across the country. Regular blogging will resume tonight as I catch up on some of Tuesday's high school sports action plus other developments.

   Election night's a disgrace: There was a brutally accurate column on a year ago that captures the sentiment of 102 percent of

all newspaper sports reporters and editors.

   (If 102 percent seems implausible, then you should watch a news reporter attempt to calculate the percentage increase in a school or town government budget.)

   In short, election night requires long hours and extra work by the news staff, which races to get the results of the day's voting into the paper. Management feels obligated to serve some semblance of food -- partly to reward the hard-working staff, partly to keep anyone from heading out for an hour-long lunch at a crucial time.

   The tradition is complete and total BS, of course, and the column should help civilians (and maybe one or two editors or publishers) understand why.

   Here's an excerpt:

   "We in the sports department generally hate Election Night. We roll our eyes at the cityside reporters who talk about working late into the night, who have to deal with fast-breaking news, taking results over the phone, juggling numbers, getting quotes and writing fast stories on tight deadlines.

   "And we hate the pizza.

   "We hate the fact that citysiders working late get food provided for them. Election Night Pizza is a bonafide thing, it's part of the allure of working the night for citysiders, and it's the thing we in sports hate the most.

   "We hate it because the work citysiders do on Election Night is the same work we in sports do every ... damn ... night. Working late into the night, having to deal with fast-breaking news, taking results over the phone, juggling numbers, getting quotes and writing fast stories on tight deadlines. We do this literally every night.

   "And we never got pizza. We never had food provided for us in the newsroom. We never celebrated or bragged about the food provided for us. We did our jobs. Every night. Without pizza."

   Sure, the view probably seems a bit biased and exaggerated to the average outsider.

   It also happens to be true.

   Every. Single. Word.

   Technology, circa 1985: Not surprisingly, a lot of the people I'm connected to on Facebook come from the journalism world. When I posted the link to a recent story regarding a technological marvel from midway through the Reagan Administration, I heard from several of those friends both on Facebook and via email.

   Everyone has stories of triumphs and everyone has stories of disasters related to the TRS-80, TRS-100 and TRS-200 laptop computers that were standard equipment for every reporter filing a story from outside the office back then.

   They operated on four AA batteries, had no appreciable


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  • memory and required flimsy (and easily breakable) acoustic couplers if you intended to transmit your story via a pay phone, which more often than not was the only phone available on deadline. Whereas your typical modern laptop can store hundreds of thousands of pages of text, the old TRS machines maxed out at the equivalent of about an 18- or 20-page term paper.

       And, yet, they were great. They were lightweight, durable and truly portable -- especially compared to the beastly (and temperamental) TeleRam Portabubble terminal that reporters previously lugged around on assignment.

       The gist of the Gizmodo story is that someone resurrected one of those TRS machines and its 24KB of RAM (yes, that's 24 kilobytes rather than megabytes or gigabytes) and figured out how to surf the Internet with it. Not surprisingly, it was awful -- appropriate for machines that were derisively referred to as "Trash-80s" and "Trash-100s" back in the day.

       The fact that the experiment resulted in any connection to the Internet is amazing in itself. The TRS laptops predated Y2K and ran on the MS-DOS operating system, code that Bill Gates bought from IBM and tweaked a bit in the early days of Microsoft.

       As someone who stored a lot of his work on 3.5-inch diskettes, I can assure you that MS-DOS was completely incompatible with all subsequent operating systems. When I finally decided to toss my TRS-200 (the fancy one with a flip-up screen and attachable disk drive for "unlimited" storage) a decade ago, it first required hours of transferring reference material through a process only slightly less complicated than converting lead to gold.

       I invested hours of work trying to import disks of Empire State Games results data into my TRS-200 in the early 1990s for what would have been my crowning technological achievement. Alas, the ESG code was written in FORTRAN on a DOS platform, so my work went for naught.

       My greatest triumph with the TRS-200? I accidentally knocked that baby off the hotel-room desk one night during the state basketball tournament in Glens Falls and the machine didn't miss a beat, powering up and working as though nothing happened -- amazing good fortune for a reporter 250 miles from home.

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