Oh my god, are you joking? The New York Times still uses Atex!?! Atex was the publishing system that we used to put out my college paper (and dumped the year after I got there); it was also the system used at the magazine I started working at in college (and was dumped two years after I got there). I know it was powerful and all, but it’s shocking to me that, with its dedicated text-based terminals, cumbersome key commands, and complex workflow, Atex had any life left in it once WYSIWYG editing and color entered the computing landscape. Their new system, CCI NewsDesk, looks pretty cool; in this day and age, it seems like a necessary fact that reporters and writers need to be able to use their publishing system on the same computer that runs their email client, web browser, and custom workflow applications. (Thanks to Anil for the heads-up on this one, and on the Times Talk site in general.)


Heh. That’s nothing. The Oregonian (And other Advance Publications newspapers) still uses Harris, which is a typesetting language. They can’t use the old terminals anymore, so they (you’ll love this) hacked out MS Word macros to replace the old keystrokes…

• Posted by: Karl on Oct 29, 2002, 10:45 PM

Heh. I love the bit about the six-character usernames. The favorite I’ll always remember from one previous employer was LASLUT.

It was a guy.

• Posted by: Dan Hartung on Oct 30, 2002, 12:45 PM

I can’t think of an industry that is more technology phobic than the Newspaper Industry. ATEX and similar systems are still used all over the place. Anytime you see somebody quote something “like this”, it’s probably because they copy and pasted straight from ATEX terminal emulator into whatever Web CMS they’re using.

From what little I’ve seen of it, CCI certainly looks like an interesting system. The only weakness, unfortunately, is web integration. The CCI system is *capable* of exporting XML files, but up until a month ago CCI baseline had no standard export format. Up until now they have been customizing export feeds for whatever CMS system a particular Newspaper was using.

They’ve tentatively decided on NewsML, but it’s unclear on what this means. (NewsML wrapping NITF objects?). It doesn’t help matters that most newspapers (exceptios for big guns like the NYT) still consider the web an afterthought and a threat.

Watching an old, stodgy, inflexible industry like News attempt to adapt to the modern environment is painful.

• Posted by: alan on Oct 31, 2002, 12:06 AM

The Mpls Star Tribune still uses Atex too, and you should see the resistance from some of the old guard when new systems are suggested. Fortunately, the online staff had a different system, but we still had to use Atex for some things.

• Posted by: Gael on Oct 31, 2002, 2:20 AM

It’s not really a phobia of technology. It’s a phobia of spending tens of millions of dollars.

I was an intern at the Strib online in ‘97, and they were talking about replacing Atex way back then. It was significant, I was told, that an online person was put on the committee to replace the system. The theory was that this way, online would be integrated into the decision making. Wonder what’s holding it up. Perhaps the sale from the family owners to McClatchy.

Man, I miss Atex, almost as much as I miss Coyote.

My paper now is on CCI, using Word for handling text. It’s mighty powerful, but less fun than anything else and still prone to hic-cups.

Last I checked (2000), the SJ Mercury News was on CCI but still used Coyote. Designers used two monitors — one for CCI in Unix, one for Coyotoe in Windows — and had to use a RSD-inducing key combination to toggle between.

• Posted by: Young Luke on Oct 31, 2002, 11:29 PM

Gawd, Luke — there’s software that can switch between x-windows and windows like it’s a dual monitor setup!! It’s been around for ages. The idea of having to use a keytoggle or kvm switch to toggle would make me yack.

• Posted by: Karl on Nov 1, 2002, 2:46 PM

What’s the big deal? My local newspaper used linotype (the old machines that made lead slugs) until the early 1980s. I still have a scar on my hand from touching a hot slug that I thought was cooled off.
This reminds me of one of my old compsci professors from the 1970s. He used to love to tell his classes how he was one of the original Univac designers, and how he still maintained (as a hobby) the only working Univac in daily production work. He described how the machine was used for payroll calculations. Of course, in every class there was some weisenheimer who would comment the payroll task could be done more easily and cheaply on a microcomputer, even a C64 would outperform an old Univac, so why would they bother with an old clunker like that? His answer was always delivered in a thunderous tone, “because it’s ALREADY PAID FOR and AMMORTIZED. As far as their accountants are concerned, the Univac is FREE.”

• Posted by: Charles on Nov 1, 2002, 8:43 PM

Does anyone know if it is possible to access the basic Atex sub-editing software on the Internet? I have a friend who would like to learn to use it before he applies for sub-editing shifts at newspapers. My email is sam.wallace@telegraph.co.uk Many thanks.

• Posted by: Sam on Dec 25, 2002, 12:37 PM
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