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.


BillH11 said...

I've sharpened my pencil, and I think (correct me if I'm wrong)that the answer is: me! If I'm not the winner, I certainly deserve something for carefully clicking chicken-plucker changes on 8-level paper tapes at 0300 hours.
Bill (probably Lyn Miller's best friend)

BillH11 said...

I think I know the answer to your question: me! Who else still living chicken-plucked changes on 8-level paper tape at 0300 hours in a tearful effort to get a Red Owl doubletruck out by 0700 hours? What a man.

Ravenmn said...

Sometimes I dream in Alphatype code. I still remember some of the font numbers. To make a vertical rule, we stacked 12 point vertical lines on reverse lead until we filled the height.

The thing that amazed our friends and colleagues was our ability to see the actual text buried in kerning codes. We trained our eyes to hide the character combinations of k00 (00 representing any two numbers to define the individual kerning between characters).

Mary O'Shaughnessy said...

Oh wow. I don't remember what made me think of the Multiset in the middle of the night, but Googling it and seeing the code brought back memories. I used it for 9 years at a place called US Lithograph in NYC.

Jodie said...

I worked in a typesetting shop with these machines from 1980 to 1990 (EDBE, OKC). I loved the work. Sometimes I really miss it. The toughest job I ever did was wrapping the names of 150 (can't remember the exact number) drivers at Jones Trucking Company into a truck shape, using bold or italic as needed to add the details. Won an award for that one. Took quite a few tries to get it right; the client wanted all the names in the same size, none could be hyphenated, and line space had to be the same throughout.