This month, I’d like to share a recent experience that may strike both fear and hope into the hearts and minds of those of you who have slowly become slaves to technology.

If you’re like me, you use a computer every day but don’t know much about how it works. You may rely on an entire computer system, but it doesn’t occur to you what might happen if the whole system should come to a sudden stop.

I encountered my first worm recently, not the kind you put on a hook to catch a fish when you were a kid, but the kind that infects your computer. This worm didn’t just infect my computer; it infected the entire CTV system. It’s only when that happens to you and everyone you work with that you truly appreciate the damage some bent and twisted nerd hidden away in his mother’s basement can do. Now, the fact is, I have no idea who did this or why, but I do know that if being a nuisance is someone’s sole purpose in life, then somebody had a big week.

When a virus hits your computer system, you realize very quickly how dependent we’ve all become on our computers. In the news business, one immediately goes looking for a typewriter. Of course none exist, at least not in any office I’ve been in recently, and even if they did they’d be very little good.

Let me try to explain what’s happened in television. Twenty-five years ago, people wrote the news on typewriters. They wrote on what we called seven-part copy paper. The scripts were split and handed out to everyone who needed one: the news anchor, the producer, the director, the audio operator and anyone else who had to see the words. That’s all done on computer now. While we all still get copies, the words are magically transferred to a teleprompter, which displays the words on a screen directly in front of the camera. That’s what makes news anchors look like they have amazing memories and know every word of the news without having to look at the script in their hand.

Suddenly, none of this was working at CTV. To make matters worse, it used to be that national and international news was fed to the station via satellite. But at CTV, those items are now transferred over the Internet. Gone! All this was happening just before noon on a Friday.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. A clever director by the name of Charles Wright had the challenge of trying to somehow recreate all of those functions, and he had five hours in which to do it. The actual computers still worked, but the entire network of systems we relied on was down. Wright had to devise a way to replace the system we call NewStar. He created a spreadsheet in Excel, which allowed the producers to organize and time the newscast. With the network down, each script had to be written in Word and walked over to a central location to be copied into a new file. It was all very complicated and I’m not going to bore you with every step, but all the scripts were amalgamated into a master document and converted to an old but not-forgotten teleprompter that could be used.

Now, the teleprompter is a news anchor’s best friend, but the real trick was to try to reinvent an entire delivery system in less than five hours. It took a remarkable effort by a host of producers, writers, IT people and technicians to make it happen, but by 5 p.m. that team of people had created a whole new system that allowed two back-to-back ewscasts to go to air with almost no way for the audience to know that the program they were watching was any different from any other.

It was a remarkable achievement. It was encouraging, too. I worry sometimes that we rely so much on computers that we may lose the ability to add and subtract, to multiply and divide and to spell. Every once in a while, whether it’s a power failure, a loss of water supply or a computer crash, we are tested. We may have to use candles, boil water, improvise to create a new computer system or find another way, but – for the most part – people manage.

Now, if I ever get my hands on that nerd in his mother’s