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Monday, March 12, 2012

Our World Tuesday: entirely different world


My brother Clint sent me the above YouTube link as a reminder of our youth ...and of an awkward, bulky Rube-Goldberg-looking contraption which was used for typesetting for a hundred years.
Clint and I first learned to set type by hand, from a case, in a composing "stick", but neither of us ever learned to run a linotype machine.  In the 70s,  however, while with the daily papers in Vancouver, BC, we did work at dreadful old blind (8-or 10-character display) qwerty (typewriter style) keyboards, punching 8-level tape, which in turn ran automatic linotypes.
We did have a linotype machine in our family printing shop in the 60s, and I was the trainee-designate but, after considerable deliberation, Dad decided "cold type" (offset printing) was on the verge of replacing "hot metal" (letterpress printing) so there was no point in having me learn a keyboard so vastly different from the typewriter, which I already knew.
Image from Google
We might have managed to get five or even ten years' worth of work out of the linotype, but it had other disadvantages besides impending obsolescence—it was dangerous, almost more dangerous than a printing press. A squirt of molten lead was not an injury to be taken lightly, or even to be risked by one's admittedly-clumsy teenage daughter.
Nevertheless, when I worked in newspaper editorial departments, I loved to visit their composing rooms to listen to the "music" of dozens of linotype machines setting type of different sizes, and the different sound of monotype machines setting headline sizes. It was an entirely different world from what we know now.


Image from Google
Dad wasn't omniscient, but he did have a lot of knowledge about printing, which lent him his foresight. By the early 70s, I was using computerized typesetting equipment and, at the time, was somewhere close to the leading edge of technology. I can laugh about it now, when technology is so far ahead of me. We thought things moved fast in the 70s and 80s, but it was nothing like the 21st century. 
Yes, ours really was an entirely different world.


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Our World Tuesday
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12 comments:

Jo said...

Oh wow, Kay, what a different and interesting world you grew up in. I think I'd also have liked to listen to that "type of music" (pun intended, lol) Your dad certainly was ahead of his time and I love that you were already using a computerized form of typesetting equipment in the 70's. Have a great day. (((Hugs))) Jo PS My post this morning is especially for you from the Hedges kitties of Tanzania!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I loved the sound of the presses, too, the smell of the ink, the men carefully bent over their typesetting, able to lay the type backwards.....and the roar of "Stop the presses!" as the editor ran feverishly into the back room - as he did one day when I, age fourteen, unwittingly typed up a "scoop". Sigh. The good ole days!

Sylvia K said...

What an interesting post for the day! Always love it when I learn something new! Hope your week is off to a good start, Kay!

Sylvia

Carver said...

Fascinating post. It is amazing to me how much printing has changed in my life time. I worked for a publisher in the early 1980s when digital typesetting was just starting and even that style of typesetting is now obsolete. You are so right about how it seemed like things changed fast in the 70s and 80s but that's nothing like the 21st century.

aka Penelope said...

I really enjoyed this fascinating looking into the past, Kay. Time marches on and the printing industry has, indeed, evolved in a very big way. Your post has reminded me how important it is to bring the written word to the masses in whatever form. It’s also always nice to remember your Dad and his involvement in this rich heritage of communication.

Sallie (FullTime-Life.com said...

You and the printed word go back a ways! Very interesting post. It's neat that your Dad considered you his heir to the job (that was sorta' rare back then)...he knew you were a smart woman!

Martha Z said...

You knew you would get to me with this. I can remember Dad coming home with burns from "squirts". Not often, though, he knew his machine and was very careful.
When the LA times first tried to go to computer typesetting it didn't work well. That was in the days when computers required a large, air conditioned room; the programing was a nightmare and the computer often crashed.
Eventually they did get a system that worked and set Dad to doing paste-up for the last few years of his career.

Ebie said...

This post reminds me of the good old days, when our test papers back in grade school were printed in mimeograph, and I remember my father teaching me how to use Messrs Underwood and Olivetti.

Those good old days really!

Powell River Books said...

I wasn't involved in printing, but using technology in education. When Apple gave one computer free to every school in California. That was in about 1981. I volunteered to take it home over the summer and develop a curriculum for it in my class for gifted students. Things grew very quickly over the years with labs first, then computers in classrooms. Then networking came in with the Internet, then wireless. Now school are very different from the years when I first started teaching. Information is available everywhere, and communication is enhanced. Guess it's funny I've chosen to live off the grid without TV or Internet after being so involved all those years. - Margy

SquirrelQueen said...

I never realized those old linotype machines were so dangerous. I wrote for a small newspaper for awhile in the 70's and I loved to watch the type being set. Things have really changed since those days.

Gattina said...

I have never seen such a thing in my whole life although my first work was in a company making letters for movie subtitles ! But it was completely different. The typewriters when I started working were very hard to handle because they were not electric at all. I only got an electric typewriter beginning the 70th, with a ball which always jumped out because I typed too quick, lol !

Snap said...

Very interesting post. I had an uncle who set type for a newspaper in Dallas ... a very long time ago!