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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ancient Models

In response to Osprey, whose post on her first computer was very different from my first experiences, I want to share my early typesetting days. Above you see an IBM Selectric. In 1980, when I was hired by a New York City department store to do paste-up and typesetting in their art department, this was their equipment. It could remember, if I recall correctly, about two lines of type. Once those two lines were printed out on clay-coated paper, the next two lines could be input and so on. Once the entire block of type was printed out, the paper was sprayed with a fixative to prevent smearing. From there, it was run through a waxer, which deposited a thin coat of hot wax onto the back of the paper; it was then cut out and pasted onto the "mechanical", a complete image of the ad, for example. It was covered with a flap of tissue paper, and sent to the printers to be photographed and then the image was used to make a printing plate for the press.

Fonts could be changed by changing the "ball", a spherical metal object with 3-dimensional letters on it, like those in a manual typewriter.

1 comment:

Osprey said...

It's very interesting hearing your experiences. I went through a couple of years on Commercial Art training and man, the way we are all spoiled now is GREAT. Then, doing an arcchitectural rendering with a rapidograph meant that accidental blotches were hard to avoid, we used layers of frisket paper and acetate, did hand lettering, and changing the color of something meant redoing it. I love rapidographs but cleaning them is an art unto itself.

The reason Photoshop is so easy is that it uses all the same old techniques - in updated form.

Airbrush! Rubber cement pickup! Draughting tape! Fixative! Not gone, not forgotten, just rendered harmless by technology.