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How technology improved 'Running with Moe' over time

Running & Fitness
Saturday, April 11, 2020

This virus thing is having an impact on just about everything. We are continually bombarded with news reports about its effects on various businesses, loss of jobs, and the challenges of quarantine. 

With all the 24/7 news of businesses dying under the closure orders, I started to think about how this has affected the people and businesses I associate with. For instance, if there are no sports playing, what are the sports editors going to write about? With no games taking place, I suppose the topic changes to interviewing players and coaches on how they’re handling the hiatus; but how long before you exhaust that topic?

Then it occurred to me that there are no road races being held either.  So, that is an area that I can’t write about.  No use writing a column about a training program to run a marathon if there are no marathons.  And why put some advice down for a speed program for a 5K if there are no 5K races in the near future?

And while on that topic, since we are advised to stay home, it is difficult to get a personal interview with a runner, or coach, and ask how they are handling this time. Of course there is always the telephone, social media sources like Twitter, and Facebook, but it is just not the same as one-on-one conversation for me.

So I thought maybe I could go back and look at some of my old columns for any ideas.  That sounded like an easy thing to do.  But what I thought was an easy thing turned out to be a little more difficult than I imagined.  

I started writing for the San Marcos Daily Record somewhere around 1984.  With 52 articles a year for 36 years – minus a few times I missed for one reason or another – that means I’ve written over 1,800 running articles. Surely, I could find something in some of those old articles that would give me an idea to write about when there is no running to report. The problem with finding ideas from old columns is that technology has changed over the years.

I remember my first columns were typed out on paper that was fed through a printer with sprockets on the side.  I would type the column, print it out, and then drive it out to the Daily Record office and give it to a typist who would retype the column so it could be printed in the paper.  (So not all of the misspelled words were my fault.)

The columns then were much shorter because I had the last half of the column as a race calendar. Over time the calendar went away because runners could access the information more quickly on the Internet.

At the beginning there were three of us in Central Texas that wrote a running column.  I think Brom Hoban wrote for the Austin American Statesman, Shawn Flanagan wrote for the San Antonio Express News, and I had my little column in the San Marcos Daily Record.  As the years went by, both the Austin and the San Antonio papers dropped their running editors and columns.  I was fortunate that the Daily Record still allowed me to continue with my column, and with time, I even expanded into the Dripping Springs Century News.

By this time, technology improved to the point that I could send my column via email to the paper and not have to drive to the office.  And with the invention of 5 ¼ floppy disks, I could now save my article to a disk for future reference.  Things were moving right along. But as you’re probably guessing by now, the problem with the storage devices is that the technology changed very quickly. From floppy disks we traversed to 3 ½  inch disks (in a hard case, and hence could no longer be called floppies) that could store ten times more material. That was even better of course, but of course with that first change, I could no longer access the old data. My new computer could no longer run floppy disks. All those columns on floppies, labeled by year, were never to be seen again.

And technology kept improving. Now we have portable hard drives we can connect to our computer that could store an encyclopedia (you young people may have to ask your parents what encyclopedias are).  But, no computers are available that run 3 ½ inch disks. So trying to recall even those columns on those second-generation devices is likewise undoable. 

Ditto for the software programs that read the stored data. Even back then, I would stick my little disk drive in the computer and it would send back a message that the new program could not “read” the old program.  Once again technology has lost several years of columns.  So we are back to the original premise that looking at past columns for a new idea would be difficult and unlikely. (Unless of course if you’re willing to pay for a professional data recovery service—which do exist by the way. So if you retro-actively decide you wrote the great American Novel on a floppy using WordPerfect in 1987, there are people that can recover it for you—but it will cost you.)

Fortunately my sanity and my bank account, I used to cut out some of the columns and put them in a folder for future use. I suppose I could have visited the Daily Record “morgue” where copies of old papers are kept and looked for old columns, but the thought of hours of research quickly killed that impulse.

My next thought was  to pull out about 150 of those old column clippings and make a short booklet, “The Best of Run With Moe,” but I honestly have no idea how many of my past columns I have cut and saved—and in any case, I’ll bet enough of them are not the kind you put into a booklet. 

So after all of this heavy pondering, what have I decided? That I will just have to come up with some new creative ideas from comic strips, cartoons, newsletters, running product ads, and pop culture for my next running column. Yes it’s low tech, but it’s cheaper and less research intensive.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666