Sunday, June 14, 2009


The first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) that I encountered was the Compugraphic 4800, ca. 1983. It was a standalone module with built-in keyboard. After having command-keystroked the job, the operator could then display it in WYSIWYG form.

Shown above is the typescript of an original typewriter poem a former student of mine composed as a class assignment in 1969.

The handwriting alongside the poem is the markup I gave the Compugraphic 4800 operator. The obvious typeface to have used was American Typewriter, but for some reason—delirious, no doubt, from a bad case of “serious-osity”—I called for Zapf International Light. Today I would call for Schmutz or FF Trixie.

The tree displayed in orange on the screen. The refresh rate of the 4800 was slow, and it took approximately thirty seconds to “draw” the tree. As the image displayed from the top down, one could not “grow” the tree. And as my impulse for setting the tree in the first place was the potential for interactive effects, I did not continue along these lines.

When I informed the operator of this decision, she gave me her absolute best “I could have told you so” world-class smile.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

First Contact

I have finally posted an email contact. I had to prevail upon a good friend of mine to get the html code for it.

As I keyed the code in, I was reminded of the coding for the Alphatype CRS 99000, one of the last phototypesetting systems. So I asked a former co-worker to help me piece together, as best she could remember, the code for a typical typesetting job. It has been nearly twenty years since either of us had used a Multiset keyboard, so the result shown above may not be entirely accurate.

To begin with, it was necessary to key in the relevant typographic parameters. What is not apparent however is that the monitor that displayed the code and accompanying copy was not a WYSIWYG. So imagine setting a six-column spread with the copy wrapping around fishing lures, rods and reels, even creels with a hapless fish sticking out, (and we are not talking picture boxes with automatic text wrap, but text indents keyed in left and right); then ending the last column with the logo and servicemark copy. And I want you to know all six columns had to fill, and both top and bottom align. No carding allowed—“carding” being the nefarious practice of add-leads or inconsistent leading to fill to column depth of adjacent columns.

Well, here is one of those ads.

With only the Multiset counting keyboard to warn of an overset line, first a white bullet displayed, then a second, then a third, and finally a clangorous bell, sounding like a garbage truck backing up, the operators were able to visualize the job taking shape. On many occasions jobs came off the printer close enough that I could have signed off on them—although the Rapala fishing lure ad probably went through ten or twelve alterations under the meticulous eye of an agency art director.

So the question remains: Who were these operators? Good time for all you gender studies people to start sharpening your quills.