Daily Universe computer guru closes 32-year chapter at BYU


Most students couldn’t imagine making it through school without a computer. One man, however, knows what it was like when computers were first introduced on campus and has spent the past three decades ensuring the computer systems for The Daily Universe run smoothly.

In 1976, The Daily Universe got its first computer system. Daryl Gibson, who is ending his 32-year career at BYU after this semester, was a journalism major and student reporter at the time. He came from a journalism family. His father owned The Nephi Times-News, a weekly publication based in central Utah. When he was 5, Gibson was helping out around the print shop, and by his teen years he was writing stories and taking pictures for the paper.

[media-credit name=”Photo by Mark Philbrick.” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Daily Universe newsroom, March 16, 1978. Joy Ross in foreground, Daryl R. Gibson near foreground.
“As soon as I got my driver’s license I was going out on traffic accidents, taking pictures of dead bodies,” he said.

Having practically grown up in the newspaper business, Gibson said he was comfortable in the journalism program. In 1976, like the rest of the reporters and staff of The Daily Universe, he was introduced to the VT61 computer — a state-of-the-art device built for word processing and typesetting applications.

He said his initial encounter with the new technology was difficult. Little did he know his quest to master the machine would be a fork in the road that gradually moved him from a career in newspaper production to information technology.

“Everybody else in the newsroom was doing great things with it,” he said. “But I wasn’t able to. I couldn’t make it work and it irritated me.”

Despite his early lack of success, Gibson decided to keep at it. So he got hold of a username — which he said he shouldn’t have had access to as a student — and cooped himself up in a corner with the enigmatic box.

“I tried every command in the blasted book until I could figure them all out,” he said. “I had a systems manager book and I figured out all of those commands. So when my boss, the production and systems manager, needed somebody to help him out, it was me.”

In 1978, Gibson took over as production manager of The Daily Universe. Over the course of 30 years, the paper went through some drastic changes, but all the while, Gibson was there. When the revelation concerning blacks and the priesthood was given, he was there. When the Berlin Wall fell, he was there. On 9/11, he was there.

Many of the current journalism faculty remember fondly him from the days when they were undergrad editors and reporters at the Daily Universe.

Many who have come into contact with Gibson over the years have come to know him as a great problem solver and reliable source of aid. Kaye Nelson, one of the newsroom advisers at The Daily Universe, said Gibson has never failed to solve a problem for her in the newsroom.

“I call him the IT wizard,” she said. “He can think through a problem and figure out the details to get it back on track. I’ve never seen him not be able to resolve a problem.”

Students face technical problems in the newsroom, and it has often been Gibson who steps in to save the day.

When Allie McCoy was opinion editor her computer completely died. She had saved lots of essential information to the hard drive and worried she wouldn’t be able to retrieve it. That’s when she turned to Gibson.

“He was able to help me figure out ways to recover that information so I didn’t completely lose things I’d worked on for the entire semester,” she said. “He’s really patient and can get everything figured out with the computers. I don’t know what we’ll do without him. Hopefully just never have a computer problem again.”

Rich Evans, another newsroom adviser, said Gibson’s career at The Daily Universe is remarkable for its longevity and for the variety of roles he’s played throughout the years.

“He’s been a kind of rock to this place, even as they’ve taken him from an active newsroom role and moved him into IT stuff,” Evans said. “Managing directors have come and gone. Advertising directors have come and gone. Various other employees have come and gone, but Daryl stays. In a place where upheaval has been more the rule than the exception, he’s managed to ride it all out.”

One of the most impressive aspects of his career is that for the past 15 years, Gibson has commuted every week from his home in Las Vegas. When asked how many miles he’s driven for the job, Gibson pulled out a calculator and figured he’s traveled about 750,000 miles since he got married in 1997 and moved to Nevada.

More than 30 years, thousands of issues of The Daily Universe and three-quarter of a million miles are just some of the ways to begin describing Gibson’s career at BYU. But perhaps he said it best, in his humble and soft-spoken way.

“It’s been a good life.”

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