In 1989 Heloisa Zero was working as a layout artist in our art department when director of design Steve Hoffman told her that she would soon receive a new computer, an Apple Macintosh, the first of the machines at SI. Her mission? Play around with the computer and see if the art department should start using it to design and lay out the magazine. "I was sure I wouldn't like it," says Zero.
But as she and her art department colleague Peter Herbert started experimenting with the Mac, they discovered its remarkable graphic capabilities. Soon thereafter the art department, which until that point had been using waxing machines and Exacto knives in executing its designs, became fully computerized.
This spring the rest of the editorial staff switched to Macs as well, to do all of SI's word processing. Although we knew there would be benefits to the changeover, we also knew there would be daunting technical hurdles in moving from the mainframe the magazine had previously been edited on. More than 120 users would have to be able to work on a network of Macintoshes at the same time. If the system was unreliable, it would be more than an inconvenience—we could miss our deadline.
Thankfully, we have had cheerful tour guides as we ventured into this new realm. Herbert, now our director of editorial operations, has guided a team that includes deputy directors Zero and Karen Heuler, who had been helping maintain our mainframe system. These three, and the others in our operations department, have made what could have been an arduous transition bearable.
The operations team helped select the system, tested it, worked with vendors to customize it to our needs and has labored mightily to keep it running. For those inevitable occasions when stability fell victim to electronic gremlins, the operations staffers established a hotline that brought support personnel such as Harry Wilson (the network administrator), John Arbucci, Sam Greenfield or Vincent Nealy bounding to the desks of editors and reporters. Mort Young makes sure stories can be filed by our far-flung writers, and Carol Ranone keeps the operations department running by handling its own administrative and equipment problems. "From the start of the year until the first issue done entirely on the new system, in June, the operations crew worked eight days a week," says SI executive editor Peter Carry.
Although they claim their jobs dominate their lives, the ops people also have interests outside the cyberworld. Heuler's first collection of short stories, The Other Door, was published by the University of Missouri Press this month. Zero, an abstract painter, opened a gallery show on Sept. 24 at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts in Little Falls, N.Y. Meanwhile, Herbert serves as technology adviser to our sister magazine Martha Stewart Living. And while working with the queen of homemaking hasn't inspired Herbert to knit us all mouse cozies, he and his staff have made using our new computers as comfortable as a patchwork quilt.