Friday, 24 September 2010

The Little Killer . . .

This is the little devil that started it all in January 1984. Like the small mammals that were around when the dinosaurs ruled, this small, but beautifully formed creature was going to be around long after the archaic methods of typesetting had long gone.

It was like the big bang - suddenly you could see what you were setting as you were setting it. I got my first bite of an Apple in Mid 84. Gestetner were distributing the first ones and I knew a man who was selling them. At first it was DTP (desktop publishing), and it turned everyone that could type into typesetters. The first Macs (named after America's favourite apple, the Macintosh) could only print A4 . . . but what you could get on your A4 - text, headlines, images, runarounds. It was wonderful. But with any major advance, there would be casualties. In my case it was the Compositor/Typesetter. Suddenly there was no need for paste-up artists. The Reading Room was disposed of because of the spell-checker. Soon, when the next development was to link up the Mac to a photosetter there would be no need for film planners, scanner operators, plate makers.

Between the mid 80s and the mid 90s the Apple Mac became the industry standard input device. Its development continued at an astronomic pace. The first Mac had 128k of RAM and an 8Mhz processor, the latest has 3GB of RAM, rising to 32GB and a processor speed of 3.33Ghz.

The print trade union suffered greatly from the new technology. The NGA became the GPMU, already over the years it had merged with SOGAT and SLADE, and finally it was to merge with Amicus and then Unite. No printers - no union. The industry contracted. No trade typesetters as typesetting became affordable. Instead of hundreds of thousands of pounds for Scitex or Linotype or Monotype systems a few thousand would get you a top line Mac and all the software you needed. There were a few companies supplying film but these to would soon dissappear in the digital age. Graphic design studios came and went. One man could now design, typeset, scan, read, colour correct and proof. Colour proofs using Matchprint or Iris soon went and now with digital presses and CTP (computer to plate) there is no need for film. Turn round times shrank. Days became hours, hours became minutes and now minutes have become seconds.

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