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I don’t like to brag…

…but I mastered Mail Merge this morning.

If you don’t know mail merge, it’s the procedure for making data from a spreadsheet bulk print onto labels or envelopes or your latest Ponzi scheme letter. You take a Word file and an Excel spreadsheet and smash them together until labels dribble out.

Uncle B phoned and I told him what I was doing and he was like, “Mail merge? That’s something I did in Wordstar in the Eighties.” And, as far as I can tell, they haven’t made a single improvement.

I’d really hoped I had reached the point in life when I didn’t need to learn stuff any more.


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: October 17, 2022, 9:08 pm

Aww, come on…Mail Merging is fun. You can do it with email as well.


Only stop learning stuff when you’re dead…it keeps your brain functional. Joe Biden stopped learning stuff a long time ago and look at him.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: October 18, 2022, 1:04 am

Mail merge!? That’s something I did in COBOL and PL/1 on a 370 back in the 70s. With punch cards.

What I learned today: Take a little more time evaluating wife’s facial expression and body language before asking, “How did your day go, my dear?”

Comment from blake
Time: October 18, 2022, 4:06 am

My dad made a TON of money with a program that automated mail merge back in the ’70s…using PL/I. One of my first jobs was messing with that.

As for not needing to learn stuff…it is my life. Alas.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: October 18, 2022, 6:54 am

There, there, Weasel… don’t let these old DOSosaurs make you feel bad with their bragging about how easy Mail-Merge is…. what with them doing in their childhoods one-handed while walking to school barefoot uphill both ways. Just last week our neighborhood association sent out a miss-merged announcement to several hundred homes. I think it’s one of those things that, because it’s unchanged is actually harder to learn today than it was back when everyone wore an onion on their belts, since in these modern automated times we have so little practice doing similar primitive tasks. They lived much closer to the code than we do now. Mail-Merge seems very Old-Testament to me.

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: October 18, 2022, 11:56 am

Strongly resists urge to talk about punch card confetti and Christmas wreaths made from Hollerith cards.

Or being told we couldn’t write a miniature equivalent of a modern email messaging mechanism in the W/T system for a certain British bank (hello Lloydy boy! ) because “mail” was the sole provenance of “the post office”.

And we did walk up hill, both ways, and had to shovel our own path through 6 foot snow drifts, but we lashed barrel staves to our feet with wire thank you very much!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 18, 2022, 2:20 pm

I’d be willing to bet the 2022 version is LESS flexible than what some of you dealt with in Ye Olden Days.

I’m doing address labels. The ones with an extra address line, the post code is nipped in half. Easy fix – combine the town and county on a single line.

Nope. Can’t do it. Every field gets a newline. Combine two columns on the source spreadsheet? Hoo boy – that resulted in a mess!

In the end, I bumped the type size down. Looks stupid, but there you go.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: October 18, 2022, 4:17 pm

I remember punch cards, and I was a draftsman! Drawings produced via programming with punch cards was a great idea, but there were always mistakes. Fixing the mistakes was my job, with an ink pen and a straight-edge.

It was an amazing look into the future—in 1974.

Comment from Jon
Time: October 18, 2022, 5:00 pm

I was past the era of punch cards, but boy howdy are they fun to play with when you’re a kid and there are a pile of them left over.
The old multiple-hole printer edge thingies (did they have a name?) were fun too, but it even more fun watching the cats get tangled in them.

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: October 18, 2022, 9:18 pm

Back when we were learning that onions could be hung on belts, in high school we fiddled with something called Dartmouth “A” BASIC, which we typed up and punched into a paper tape about 1 1/2 inches wide. We fed that into a tape reader and transmitted the program to a computer at Denver University. There it would be compiled and run, and sent back to be printed on a teletype.

A year later I was studying FORTRAN IV at the University of Colorado, which required writing a program to do what you wanted. Going to the dedicated computer building and using an IBM Model 26 keypunch machine on . . . Hollerith cards, putting the required header and tail cards on the deck, and take it to the white coated high priests in the computer room itself running the Control Data 6400 and hand it to them through a window with appropriate genuflections. Then come back in a couple of days and pick up a printout and your deck and figure out where you did something wrong.

One good thing about the Hollerith cards. When you punched them, they had all those little rectangles of punched out card which ended up in the bin on the side of the keypunch machine. And they all had a static charge meaning that they would stick to anything. The opportunities for practical jokes were endless. And taken advantage of.

Subotai Bahadur

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: October 18, 2022, 9:54 pm

Hollerith chads- the glitter bombs of the pre 80s.

I detect a certain age range at play here ya damned old geezers.

IT Boomers!

Comment from BJM
Time: October 18, 2022, 11:08 pm

Hmmm…’tis beginning to sound a bit like the IT geezer version of The Four Yorkshiremen… pre-Python from “At Last The 1948 Show”, starring Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and Marty Feldman.

I don’t do snailmail merge anymore…I send it to a mail house. By the time you add the costs up, it ain’t any cheaper doing it yourself,

Lookit what the whippersnappers are up to. Ah, the stories they’ll have to tell, eh?

Comment from BJM
Time: October 18, 2022, 11:20 pm

I didn’t want to tempt Akismet…here’s the link to At Last The 1948 Show.

Comment from blake
Time: October 19, 2022, 2:31 am

Hey, this is one of the few places left on the Internet I can feel young!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 19, 2022, 6:04 pm

I’m the youngest person in my circle, as I always have been – which is weird as I’m in my sixties now.

Surely some day I’ll be the oldest.

Comment from SundogUK
Time: October 23, 2022, 8:35 am

I’m 51 and I suspect I would fit in to your circle easily.

I reckon I can deal with 41 and 61 pretty well. But 31 and 71? 31 year olds are just weird.

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