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The Pennysaviour was done in 1990. This was at the dawn of the DTP revolution. The Lance had just moved from a traditional typesetting system (you typed raw text and obscure codes into a beast of a machine that output the final product to film) to a PC-based system. We had a PC XT with a 10 MB hard drive (that's "10 megabytes" not "10 gigabytes" back then 10 megabytes was so big you had to be partition the hard drive into about 3 different virtual drives), 1 MB of RAM, and DOS 3.3. It was hooked up to a 1200 DPI laser printer. In 1990, when 300 DPI laser printers were going for about $2,000, a 1200 DPI laser printer cost a room full of gold. Word was we paid something like $50,000 for the whole set up. A fortune in any age. Our layout software was Xerox's Ventura 1.1.


This is how you did typesetting before laser printers and TrueType fonts. Notice the lack of a monitor. You punched in lines of text via the keyboard. Each line of text first appeared in a little LED window that let you verify it was typo free before committing it irrevocably to memory. You flipped some switches to
indicate font size. And when you were ready, the typesetting machine then basically typeset your
text onto film paper. You took the exposed paper to the darkroom for developing and then you
sliced it all up and manually pasted your columns of typeset text.


Ventura was a remarkable DTP program given the hardware limitations of the day (1 MB RAM, DOS 3.3). While not ideally suited for creating newspapers, Ventura was a great package to learn. It was designed primarily to lay out complex technical manuals. Knowing Ventura, knowing something about computers, and knowing how to write started me on my illustrious, glamorous career as a technical writer. While boring work at times, technical writing is one of those rare full-time writing jobs that pay well.


Ventura 1.0. It looked a lot like early Mac software because it came from the
same minds at Xerox who created the Mac operating system. Xerox was doing GUI
applications years before Microsoft.


With our setup, we were limited to outputting text to normal sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper. We couldn't compose whole pages on the screen, output them to PDF, and hand off a disk to the printer. This was still 1990. No problem, however. We were still working in a hybrid "paste up" world. Basically we'd typeset the columns of text and ads, print them to paper, and then take them over to the light board for traditional paste up. There the text and ads would be sliced up with an exacto knife and stuck to cardboard flats.


Paste up was fairly labor intensive, requiring about 3 or 4 people to slice up articles, wax the back of photos, and lay things out. It was, however, an interesting and fun communal activity, like social grooming among chimpanzees, but instead of picking bugs off of each other, you'd pick off sticky wax.


While I was very good at getting wax out of people's arm hair, one skill I lacked, besides being able to cut straight with an exacto knife, was line taping straight. To create boxes around articles or ads, you used line tape. Line tape was a normal role of clear tape but with a black line in the middle. It came in different sizes: line tape with .5 point line, 1 pt line, 2 pt line, etc.


You would run a strip of tape across the top of the article, down the other side, across the bottom, and finally the remaining side. The trick was to over lap the tapes.


Once your article was line taped, you took an exacto knife and trimmed the over laps off at the corners by cutting on a diagonal just a shade away from the point where they met.

This process, while time consuming, also assumed you were good at a) taping straight b) cutting straight.

These things I was never good at. Terry was, however.


Another high tech gizmo that was out of our price range was a scanner. They practically give them away these days if you so much as buy a digital watch but back then a cheap black-and-white hand scanner went for $500. To copy art work, enlarge/shrink art work, and half-tone photographs, we used a thing called a stat cam. A stat cam is basically a Yugo-size Polaroid camera. What you want to copy, you put on a plate and then shot it with the cam. You then ran the exposed paper through a complex system of gears and chemicals and you hoped to hell what you shot came out the other end ten minutes later. More often than not it didn't and you'd have to do it again. Half-toning (turning photos into black dots) was half sorcery and half guess work. Ugg.





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All stuff copyright 1990-2002 TransMetaPhysical Heresies R Us
(a subdivision of The Karl Mamer and Terry Brown Foundation for Creative Penury)


Email me if you want to give me a high paying job: kamamer@yahoo.com