ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT


Alice wasn't at all certain where she was heading until she heard a familiar voice. "Hi there, Alice!" It was Stro, and she had come back to the port. A boat was docked and the workers were scurrying around. Alice remembered the angry Port Authority and looked around cautiously but the woman and her car were no where in sight.

"I see you are still here," Alice said when she finally arrived on the dock. "I was certain that you would have all been sent to the modem by now!"

"Oh, you mean the ol' lady. She wouldn't really send us away, you know. Anyway, who all would do the work for her?"

Suddenly, Alice remembered how hungry she was. "Did you get to eat your lunch?" she asked.

"Long ago! We all waited 'til she left, then dug into the grub."

"Oh," replied Alice feeling a lot sadder and not knowing what to say.

"The ship is all set to sail," said Ack as he came up to where Alice was talking with Stro.

At that moment came a cry, "AHA, I'VE CAUGHT YOU AT IT AGAIN!" The woman had suddenly returned—Alice had not even seen her drive up in her car. "Goofing off—you good for nothing dwarves!" Stro and the other workers began running around trying to appear busy.

"You again!" she yelled at Alice. "I see now that you are the center of all this trouble."

"No, no ma'am, she's...!" said Stro, but the woman really didn't listen.

"AWAY WITH YOU!" she screamed. "TO THE MODEM, ALL OF YOU!"

Alice was quite beside herself at this turn of events and didn't know what to do. The boat was just pulling away from the dock, so with a far jump she leaped to its deck. As it moved down the channel, she could see and hear the Port Authority continue yelling at the poor workers and they in turn cowering at her feet. Finally the boat rounded a turn, and the voices died away.

"I certainly am glad to be away from there," thought Alice. "This ride is pleasant, even if I still haven't found anything to eat." And the trip down the channel really was nice. The day was warm and Alice noticed that the water looked like a flat rainbow with all colors of the spectrum. "That is very curious, but lovely," she said.

Suddenly the boat entered a tunnel. It was so dark that Alice could not even see her hands in front of her face. "Oh dear! Where is this boat taking me?" she said aloud, but no one replied which made Alice feel even lonelier and a little frightened.

Without warning the boat suddenly entered a large lighted room and stopped. Alice cautiously stepped off the boat and looked around. On one side of the room was a large door. She walked slowly toward it and called, "Hello! Is anyone here?"

All was silent for a moment, then a loud pounding noise filled the air and made Alice hold her hands tightly over her ears. Fortunately, the sound stopped abruptly. But Alice was afraid to call out again. "What ever could that be?" she asked herself.

"Wait just a moment in the buffer," said a voice, and the loud noise began again. When it stopped, the voice called, "Ok, you can come in now."

Alice peered through the door and saw a short but rather fat old man with half-glasses like her grandmother wore. He was wearing a large apron that was covered with black smears.

"Hello," said Alice. "I'm...."

"Just a moment," he interrupted, "Someone pressed the form feed—I have to advance the paper." With that he busied himself at a large console, and a strange whirring sound filled the room.

While he was busy, Alice had a chance to look around. A large screen with a sweeping line that left bright blips on the screen caught her attention. "Is that a computer?" she asked when the noise stopped.

"Eh? Oh, that's the user radar. It detects whenever the user is nearby. When the user leaves, then I always jam the paper! It's lots of fun."

At the mention of jam, Alice remembered how hungry she still was. However, she refrained from asking him anything about food.

"I don't believe that I caught just what you do here," she said.

"I am a printer. I make a hard copy of whatever is sent. It is a way of sending information out of the computer."

"What is a 'hard copy'?" asked Alice.

"Well, its a picture of the character in whatever font that is desired."

"Why would someone want a picture of themselves in a font? Wouldn't they be all wet?"

"Oh, you are thinking of the jet printers! No, they dry in just a few moments."

"Just how do you make a picture of the characters on the paper?" asked Alice.

"I pull the characters apart and knock them out with these pins—that's why it's so noisy around here."

"Oh, doesn't that hurt to be pulled apart and...?"

"I don't rightly know—I've had no complaints. However, I have a flashy cousin who is real quiet and makes superb pictures. She told me the characters like her—maybe it's because she spends so much money on them. I tease her and tell her she just copies things. My characters and pictures are pretty good, if I say so myself! Say, I could send you out and make a picture of you on the paper!" And he peered at Alice over the top of his glasses.

"That's alright," replied Alice. "I would like to see my sister again, but I don't think...."

"Excuse me, I have something to print now." And with that the printer began pushing the paper and pounding the nine pins.

The pounding of the pins made a horrible racket. "I do wish they would stop," she thought, although she could have shouted and no one could have heard. Yet, they sounded familiar, almost like a click, click, click. Where had she heard it before? Then it turned into a popping sound.

Suddenly she felt as if she was being pulled apart and sent flying through the air, although Alice had never been torn apart before so she could only imagine what it might be like. "What's happening?" she cried. The printer was gone. The world around her swirled. "Oh my! Help!" She closed her eyes tight.



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