From floppy disks to bleeding-edge technology

metts feature

A decade before there was such a thing as a “blog,” I attended Gannon as an undergraduate science major. In the late 1980s, I spent many hours in labs doing things such as classifying and dissecting sea creatures for Dr. Stan Zagorski’s invertebrate zoology class. I also spent many hours in the office of the student newspaper, The Gannon Knight, applying my love of graphic design and the English language.

Through my medical terminology class with Dr. Paul Peterson, I learned that I could combine my seemingly disparate interests in science, design and language via technical writing and editing, which I later studied with Dr. Phil Kelly at Gannon and in a professional writing master’s degree program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. For the next 10 years, I worked as a technical writer and editor in corporate high-tech in Pittsburgh, Dallas and Detroit, and I freelanced as a document editor and designer.

During my time at The Gannon Knight in the late 1980s, the newspaper converted to desktop publishing. It was originally a student-edited paper written on PCs and sent to Erie’s Lake Shore Graphics on 5 ¼-inch floppy disks to be typeset. It became a student-produced paper written and typeset with PCs, laser printers, light boards, wax, border tape and X-ACTO knives in our own office. This was a significant step that brought The Knight closer to the way real-world newspapers were beginning to be produced at the time. The tumultuous conversion to desktop publishing ushered out 40 years of typewriters and gave the staff invaluable, at the time “bleeding-edge-of-technology” experience to put on our resumes for a work world that was just then beginning to see PCs on every desk.

Today, over 20 years since graduating from Gannon, I live on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where I continue to work as a freelance editor – now via email, another thing that didn’t yet exist when I lived in Erie. I still study sea creatures. And I still benefit from my time at Gannon with “bleeding-edge” technology and otherwise. Without the experience I gained in Gannon’s labs and student newspaper office, I wouldn’t have had the necessary skills to earn a master’s degree in professional writing, work in corporate high-tech or start my own freelance business. And I wouldn’t have been able to assemble the collection of shells pictured here. Viva the “edge.”