The journalism department received a Hendrix computer system in 1975 that allowed students to learn about the new photo-typesetting process. The Traveler contracted with the department to allow the newspaper staff to use the typesetting equipment in the evenings after classes.
The machines amounted to a computer processor the size of a refrigerator that operated two monitors. A few dozen stories, depending on their length, could be saved in the computer at one time. As typing of stories was completed, a paper tape version of the story was punched, and it was then fed through a photo-typesetting machine. The typeset story was then available for paste-up. The staff members pasted up their own pages in the late-night hours rather than wait for University Printing Services to open in the morning.
The process worked well until the journalism department’s typesetting equipment failed one night in 1980. As a result, all the copy for several issues was typed on an IBM Selectric typewriter and many of the headlines were hand-lettered in calligraphy. In an editorial titled “Rats. Phooey,” editor Mike Gauldin poked fun at the newspaper’s first battle with a computer glitch:
Welcome once again to the world of stone-age journalism. Just a reminder that we’re having a few technical problems with the equipment we rent from the Journalism Department. We’re really embarassed about all this, and we’re afraid that the Journalism Gods aren’t very pleased, but we’re doing what we can. ... We may not be very pretty, but as long as we can keep getting information out we will, if we have to print just one copy and stroll around campus reading it out loud.
The equipment was working again by the next month, in time for the same staff to produce a seventy-fifth anniversary edition of The Arkansas Traveler with historical stories by Laura Cummings and Mignonne Agee. The equipment was retired that year, however, and production of The Traveler was moved back into Printing Services the next year.
The Arkansas Traveler. September 18, 1980.