Technology flub

One writer’s race to find a working computer

By Marc Katz

Sure, this wireless internet age we’re in is great now, Mr. Obvious, but there were some growing pains.

In the middle of Dayton’s 1984 Elite 8 run in Los Angeles, I had to exchange my broken computer with the one being used by a Dayton Daily News entertainment editor trying to board a flight home from LAX.

He had been in town interviewing movie people, and I was in town covering the Flyers against Washington, then Georgetown.

Unlike today, when computer repair shops are seemingly in every strip mall, a broken computer in 1984 was either going to be in the shop for a couple weeks or in the waste can as a piece of junk.

Dayton wasn’t supposed to even make the NCAA tournament field in 1984, with an 19-10 regular season record.

Gary Nuhn and I shared coverage, as the afternoon Daily News was merging staffs with the morning Journal Herald.

Dayton not only was included in the NCAA, but the Flyers won their first two games, against LSU and Oklahoma.

Those victories earned them a spot in the Sweet 16 in Westwood, California, home of the UCLA Bruins. One more win moved the Flyers to the regional final against Georgetown.

There’s a lot more to this story that’s much funnier now than it was then, but I’ll just focus on the Texas Instruments 700—a bulky, heavy, and rudimentary computer—we used at the time.

There was no screen, just a roll of thin white paper that made the contraption look like a typewriter (go look it up on Google), with a pair of suction cups attached.

Once a story was written, the writer used a rotary-dial telephone (look that up on Google, too) to call a machine that beeped.

Once the beep was heard, the writer jammed the receiver into the suction cups, and the story was on its way.

Sportswriters discovered early on that arena and stadium noise could also trigger the computer to start sending a story prematurely.

To remedy that, we all carried tissues in our pockets, jamming the tissues into the suction cups before the crowd noise became too loud, then using well-honed coordination skills to pull the tissues out with one hand while dialing and jamming the phone receiver into the suction cups with the other.

By that time, we’d landed men on the moon, so we knew things would get better, just not in time for me to file my Dayton victory over Washington story on Friday, March 23, 1984.

Dayton played the first game of the regional, with UNLV playing Texas El Paso in the second, even though the two teams were in opposite brackets.

That meant I’d need my computer for a Saturday notebook, a Sunday advance, a Monday game story and notebook, and anything else I was asked to do before flying home on a redeye.

My problem began as I was finishing up my UD-Washington game story and was ready to send. The UNLV team began to file out for warm ups, and the place erupted.

Las Vegas was closer to Los Angeles than any other school in the regional, and coach Jerry Tarkanian was popular with almost everybody not associated with the NCAA, which spent years investigating him.

Anyway, the crowd, numbering under 10,000, was as loud as I’d ever heard, and way too much for my computer. It did a little hop on the desk in front of me. When I connected it to my phone, it reprinted my story, but with strange characters.

I had to read blank spaces live to a copy editor.

Back at the hotel, the computer no longer turned on. (Later, I found out a computer chip had snapped.) I borrowed an old typewriter from the hotel front desk to write another story and dictate it in, then wondered how I was going to get through the next two days.

Someone at the office called and said a movie critic was in town, scheduled to fly out the next morning. He had a computer, and his hotel was within a mile of mine. I called and left a message. By the morning he hadn’t called back. The desk clerk said he didn’t check his messages and was on his way to the airport, which seemed close, but in LA close and “a short time” are not related.

I raced to the airport in a rental car, did not have to go through TSA, because there was no TSA, and spotted the guy in his boarding line.

We vaguely knew each other and would never be friends. Before he knew what was happening, I had his computer in my hand and he had mine in his.

I was annoyed, but felt good the rest of the weekend. It got better as I treated myself to some gelato on my final trip to the airport the next day.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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