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#Throwback Thursdays

The Dominion Post has served the Morgantown community since 1864. In those 155 years, we produced some great photographs, and now we would like to share some of our favorites with you. Starting today, on Thursdays we will share archival images through our social media.

To kick things off, we begin with a look back at how far news photography has come.

This photograph originally appeared in the Sunday edition of The Dominion Post on Oct. 25, 1987. Photographer Ron Rittenhouse, who this year will celebrate his 50th year with the paper, snapped the photo of running back A.B. Brown while in Boston watching the West Virginia University Mountaineers defeat the Boston College Eagles on Oct. 24.

If this picture were taken today, Ron would spend all of five minutes downloading and sending the file via email from Boston back to our newsroom in Morgantown. A copy editor would spend another five minutes digitally placing the image in the paper’s layout for the Sunday paper. But in 1987, from film to press, the process took over an hour.

First, Ron developed and printed the photo by hand in the bathroom of his hotel room. Photographers regularly traveled with mobile photo labs well into the mid-1990s, before digital cameras became reliable and affordable.

“I would dry the film. I would edit. I would set up my Ektaflex print system to make a color print,” Ron said. “This is taking already about 20 minutes,” but the process had just begun.

Once developed, Ron would add his caption to the image, as well as a color bar and bullseyes, but more on those in a moment.

He then used an analog drum transmitter to send the photograph over physical phone lines. The transmitter would be connected to the phone system through the hotel phone’s receiver using alligator clips.

“You would roll the print on the processor. … You would make a call back here to the office and tell sports that you were ready to send your first photo,” Ron said.

The machine would then rotate the image at a constant rate while a scanner read the image line by line, pixel by pixel. To send a color image, the photograph was scanned three times, one for each primary color.

“We pulled up and transmitted the yellow, the red and the cyan.”

Each transmission took eight minutes, meaning one color image would take at least 24 minutes if everything went well.

“If there was a line through the picture, you have to go back. All you did was just pull the little dial up to the color you had the bad transmission and send it again,” Ron said.

A staff member, such as Mike Ashburn, would collect all three scans from the wire photo transmitter in the newsroom. Using the color bar and the bullseyes Ron added before transmitting, Mike could accurately process all three separate scans back into a single color photograph.

“If it took him 24 minutes, it would easily take you 20 minutes to do this,” Mike said.

Today, we take for granted that a picture can be sent wirelessly and in seconds be accurately recreated halfway across the world. But just 30 years ago, it took half a dozen devices to accomplish the same.

“It was no fun,” Ron said.