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TERRY WOSTER: New dimensions for technology

When I worked for newspapers, it was a tradition on election night for the employer to spring for a pre-returns meal for the staff members who were on duty for the evening.

I don't recall any of any employers springing for a meal for any of the reporters who used to work late on legislative nights, but I suppose somewhere in the field manual of how to treat reporters, there's a chapter that explains the distinction between working late at the Legislature and working late for the general election. That would make for some interesting hair-splitting, I suppose.

(If you're thinking this is a piece about election reporting, be of good cheer. We're about to talk about new technology, as processed through the mind and experience of an old guy.)

Some years at the newspaper, I would be called to Sioux Falls to cover a specific race, working from the newsroom. For example, in 2004, I was assigned to cover the campaign of then-former-U.S. Rep. John Thune, who was running against then-incumbent-U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle. I hung out most of the evening at the Thune victory place, but before I left the newsroom for the evening, I had some pizza or something. In 2008, I was assigned to the ballot initiative on the abortion ban. I split time between the election-night headquarters of the two sides in that issue. I think I got in on the meal in the newsroom before I left for the evening's coverage.

Some years, I spent election night in Pierre, covering a candidate or an issue that was based out of the capital city. I stayed here in 2002, for example, when then-former-state Sen. Mike Rounds had his election night party in Pierre. That evening, just before I headed over to the Rounds' election-night headquarters, I checked in with the newsroom to make sure no plans had changed.

The plans remained the same, the editor assured me. I had to ask twice, because the editor's voice over the phone was muffled and indistinct.

"You have a mouthful of marbles or pebbles or something? Practicing to be a great speaker like that Demosthenes guy?'' I asked.

Absolutely no interest in being a great speaker or modeling himself after Demosthenes, the editor said after a few moments, during which I could distinctly hear the sound of chewing.

"Just had a mouth full of pizza from the election-night spread,'' he said.

When I asked where my election-night pizza was, he said it was right there in the newsroom if I wanted to drive down. I didn't do that, of course. It would have meant abandoning my assigned post at exactly the time I was most needed in Pierre. Besides, by the time I drove from here to Sioux Falls, the pizza would have been gone.

Instead, I said, "If you have one that's a thin crust, fax me a couple of slices.''

Good for laughs, but it didn't put a dent in my hunger.

Obviously, I never forgot that night, because the other evening as I read an online account of how someone used a three-dimensional copy machine to copy the working parts to a mostly plastic firearm, I immediately thought of election-night meals back at the newspaper. The person apparently used a design plan available online and a printer that seems to extrude molded plastic shapes instead of paper covered with fake ink.

Who even knew people made 3-D copy machines? In my day, 3-D referred to movies or the occasional comic book. To see the third dimension (have the shark leap out of the page, or the monster reach out from the screen) the viewer had to wear cardboard eyeglasses with different-colored lenses. Now, apparently, a person can put a blueprint on the screen and get a 3-D product.

OK, but a copy machine isn't that much different from a fax machine, is it? Each reproduces an image. So, why couldn't a 3-D fax machine be developed to send slices of pizza from a newsroom in Sioux Falls to a reporting bureau in Pierre? If things were properly designed, you wouldn't even need to make it thin-crust. Just another high-tech idea.