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Bits and Bytes columnist enjoys posting to Herald Journal Forum

March 31, 2008

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Herald Journal readers know him as Mark Ollig, author of the weekly Bits and Bytes column. In his column, Ollig shares his expertise in technology, writing in a humorous, easy-to-read, and informative style.

His latest venture is as the Bits Blogger in the online world, posting on the Herald Journal forum under the title “Web Site of the Week.”

Although he only began his latest endeavor a few weeks ago, he is finding it to be quite enjoyable.

“It allows me a place or venue to write about some of the more unknown and interesting places out there on the Internet that the people might find informative, useful, or amusing,” Ollig said.

His most recent web site pick was www.missingmoney.com. He suggests this web site is “for real folks.”

“I know, because it actually worked for me,” Ollig said. “A year ago, I visited this site, entered some information, and was surprised to discover a certain state holding onto a few dollars . . . owed to yours truly.”

His previous suggestion was to get the latest buzz from http://buzz.yahoo.com.

“Get instant access to the latest entertainment news, celebrity lifestyles, and political information – along with all those cool Yahoo! featured videos,” Ollig said.

He has found the forums are proving to be very popular.

“It gives people the opportunity to speak their piece and give their opinions in a timely manner on many of the topics being discussed,” Ollig said. “It is very satisfying to see the people from our local communities participating in them.”

His posting to the forum and writing the column Bits and Bytes is just the latest in a long history of what Ollig calls his “itch to write.”

He started writing a school newspaper called the “Junior High Review” as a seventh grader at Holy Trinity.

After they had everything neatly typed up, they would mimeograph it.

“Remember, this was back around 1973 and 1974 when the smell of the ink from that roller-drum was quite addicting,” Ollig said.

He recalls his first exposure to typing was on the old Smith-Corona when he learned how to type in Harold Knoll’s typing class in his sophomore year.

For his junior and senior year, Ollig’s family moved to Brainerd for a few years after his father suffered a heart attack.

While attending Brainerd High School, he took the school’s journalism class and was part of the high school newspaper which was called the Pow-Wow. The school name was the Warriors.

“I so enjoyed the camaraderie of everyone at the high school paper, as we were a crazy group, but shared the love of what we were doing and seeing that final copy go to print,” Ollig said.

“There is just something about holding and reading through a real paper newspaper versus looking at it online, even though some folks say the days of the paper newspaper may be numbered,” he said.

Ollig graduated from Brainerd High School in May of 1977, and in August of that year, attended Wadena Vocational Institute and completed his telecommunications courses.

A year later, in the fall of 1978, he started working at the family-owned Winsted Telephone Company with his father, John, and two brothers, Tom and Mike. He also worked with his sister, Yvonne, who was involved in sales for out-phone systems for awhile. His mother, Therese, came to work there after his father died in 1982.

Mark remained at the telephone company until 1994, when TDS Telecom acquired it.

Afterward, he owned and operated a local restaurant in Winsted called the Chicken Barn for a while. But eventually, he re-entered the telecommunications industry and worked in Monticello for US Link, which was a subsidiary of TDS Telecom.

It was in 1996, when Mark decided he was ready to do some writing again and contacted the Winsted Journal staff who liked the idea of a Bits and Bytes weekly column.

He chose the name because that is the way information is sent over the Internet when you break it down to basics, according to Mark.

“I very much enjoyed writing about this new medium and all the wonders and potential it was to bring to the world,” Mark said.

However, by the end of 1998, Mark was involved in many other activities (trying to run a restaurant and elected to the Winsted City Council) which made him decide it was time to quit the weekly column to have time for other priorities.

After taking a number of years off, Mark began thinking about doing his column again in 2005.

He called the Herald Journal to find out if it had any column space for the second coming of Bits & Bytes, and was excited to learn they did.

The return of the Bits and Bytes column began in June 2006.

Much of the satisfaction Mark receives from writing his column comes from being able to share the new things he has learned and discovered with others.

He makes no claims to knowing everything about the Internet. He just loves writing about what he has learned, and continues to learn about it, and the technologies that propel its growth.

It is also important for him to keep the column informative and fun.

“To have the reader chuckle at my attempts of humor and to come away with information about something they might not have known before, is very satisfying to me,” Mark said. “I try to keep the column fresh – but will mix it up once in a while with historical technology, too; It is important to look back every so often. It allows us to understand and appreciate how far we have come.”

Mark does not consider himself a literary writer who writes columns that are hard to read.

“I am more of a pedestrian writer that prefers to write easy-to-read columns,” Mark said. “I write as if I was sitting down with someone, talking over a cup of coffee.”

So for now, he will keep writing Bits and Bytes and posting to the forums until they tell him everything that can be known about technology has been written.

If you would like to view the Bits Blogger's web site pick of the week, click here. To catch up on Mark's last several columns, then click here.

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