Archive for the Print Media Category

Efraim “Efi” Arazi (1937–2013): Color electronic prepress systems

Posted in Business systems, People in Media History, Prepress, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2015 by multimediaman
Efraim “Efi” Arazi: April 14, 1937 – April 14, 2013

Efraim “Efi” Arazi: April 14, 1937 – April 14, 2013

One of the most important achievements of personal computers and mobile wireless technologies is that they have made it possible for the general public to do things that could previously be done only by professionals.

Take video for example: according to YouTube statistics, 300 hours of digital video is uploaded every minute of every day by people all over the world. This remarkable volume of video is being generated because just about anyone can record, edit and upload a high-definition movie from their smartphone. According to a recent Pew Research study, about one third of online adults (ages 18-50) had posted digital video to a website by 2013.

It is easy to take for granted the video production functions that are performed routinely today on inexpensive and easy to use mobile devices. Less than ten years ago, the ability to capture and edit HD video would have cost tens of thousands of dollars in digital camera and production equipment and required extensive training to use it.

The same can be said for the ability to quickly create a document in a word processing program and insert high resolution graphics anywhere on the page, cropping and scaling as needed. Applying filters and adjusting image quality (contrast, brightness, sharpness) is also second nature as these functions are today available on every mobile device.

CEPS

Four decades ago, before the personal computer existed, electronic image editing, scaling and cropping could only be performed on very expensive prepress systems that cost more than $1 million. That was during the era of what was known as color electronic prepress systems (CEPS) that were built on state-of-the-art minicomputers with reel-to-reel magnetic tape for data storage.

Arazi making a presentation of the Scitex  CEPS equipment in 1979

Arazi making a presentation of the Scitex CEPS equipment in 1979

During the 1960s and 1970s, as commercial offset lithography and film-based color reproduction were overtaking letterpress and single color work, high-end digital electronic production systems were acquired by the big printing companies and major publishers that could afford the investment.

By the 1960s—after analog electronic systems had been widely adopted in pressrooms and prepress and typesetting departments across both Europe and America—a race was on to develop a fully computerized page composing system. Companies like Hell, Crosfield, Dai Nippon Screen and other companies that had been part of the post-war electronics revolution jumped into the market to try and solve the problem of merging text and color photographs together electronically on a computer display.

However, it was a newcomer to the graphic arts industry from Israel called Scitex, founded by Efraim “Efi” Arazi in 1968, that made the highly anticipated breakthrough. Foreshadowing the impact of PC-based desktop publishing on graphic communications in the late 1980s, Scitex introduced digital files and computerization to the prepress production process and forever changed the printing industry.

Scitex

Efi Arazi (born in Jerusalem on April 14, 1937) entered the Israeli military when he was 16 and without graduating from high school. He made a name for himself as an exceptional electronics specialist while working on radar systems in the Israeli air force. Following his military service, with the assistance of the US embassy Arazi was admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958 as an “extraordinary case” despite his lack of the normally requisite secondary school diploma.

While attending MIT, Arazi also worked at Harvard University’s observatory and digital photography lab. Under the direction of Harvard Professor Mario Grossi, Arazi petitioned NASA and was awarded funds to develop a camera system for scanning the surface of the moon on the unmanned lunar probes in 1966 and 1967. It has also been reported that Arazi’s invention was part of the equipment on the Apollo 11 mission that captured and transmitted video of Neil Armstrong’s first footsteps on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

After earning a bachelor degree in engineering at MIT, Arazi worked in the US for a short time for Itek corporation, a US defense contractor that specialized in spy satellite imagery. In 1967 he returned to Israel and one year later—along with several others who had been educated in the US—founded Scientific Technologies (later shortened to Scitex) with the aim of developing electro-optical devices for commercial purposes.

The Scitex Response 80 system and an example of a stitching designs from it

The Scitex Response 80 system and an example of a stitching design from it

Scitex’s first products were developed for the textile industry. The company sold nearly one hundred electronic systems that automated the process of creating knitting patterns. Since many colors were used in complex fabric designs such as the popular Jacquard pattern, Arazi and his Scitex team developed a scanner (Chroma-Scan) and image manipulation workstation (Response 80) that programmed electronic double-knit stitching looms.

These optical systems replaced manual and time consuming stitch-by-stitch drawings and punch cards that had been widely used in the textile industry up to that time. Scitex also later devised a system for imaging film for printing on textiles that included overprinting, trapping and repeating patterns.

Response 300

Recognizing the potential for new technologies in the growing international printing and publishing industries, Scitex began development in 1975 of a computerized color prepress system. Arazi stunned the graphic arts industry in the Fall of 1979 when he demonstrated the Response 300 system for the first time at the GEC expo in Milan, Italy.

Response 300 included an integrated color drum scanner, image editing workstation and laser film plotter. Directly challenging the domination of high tech graphic arts equipment by Hell (Germany) and Crosfield (UK), Scitex was the first company in the world to combine color image retouching and page makeup onto a single console.

An early model Scitex Response workstation and console

An early model Scitex Response workstation and console

Prior to the Response 300, the electronic color scanning process was based on an analog transfer of color separation information directly from a drum scanner to the film output device. The innovation of Arazi and Scitex was to place a minicomputer (at that time an HP1000) between the scanner and plotter such that the color separations were captured and stored in digital form. The proprietary image files could then be color corrected, retouched, scaled and cropped on screen prior to final output as film separations.

In describing the significance of the accomplishment, industry historian Andy Tribute later explained, “It allowed you to do in real-time on a terminal the sort of things we do in Photoshop now. … I remember watching Efi do a demo where he had a picture of a person with a Rolex watch on and he changed the date in real time on the Rolex. Today that may seem nothing but back then it blew my mind”

Within one year, Scitex had sold $100 million of the Response systems to printers and publishers. Through the mid-1980s, Arazi led Scitex as it developed a suite of products (Raystar, SmartScanner, Whipser, Prisma and Prismax Superstation to name a few) that brought the latest in minicomputer technologies to high-end prepress workflows. Scitex customers gladly paid the $1 million price tag for the flexibility and time savings that Scitex provided.

DTP & EFI

The first European installation of the Response 200 system for the textile industry in 1975

The first European installation of the Response 200 system for the textile industry in 1975

Scitex remained an innovator throughout the 1980s and 1990s as proprietary technologies and CEPS gave way to desktop publishing, industry standard file formats and PostScript workflows. Scitex was among the first prepress technology companies to embrace the introduction of Macintosh computers into graphic arts production.

In 1988, Scitex partnered with Quark technologies—developer of the most sophisticated desktop publishing software at the time—and made it possible for QuarkXPress users to build compound documents with high resolution full color images to be output for both commercial and publication printing.

In 1985, Arazi pushed the industry forward with the development of Handshake, a Scitex product that allowed a wide variety of systems including those of competitors to send and receive data from the Response line of products. Later Scitex was an advocate of Digital Data Exchange Standards along with Hell, Crosfield, Eikonix and others to smooth that transfer of data between all systems in the industry.

In June 1988, Arazi stepped down as President and CEO of Scitex. Six months later, when Mirror Group’s Robert Maxwell acquired a controlling stake in Scitex, Efi Arazi also resigned as chairman of the board. While the company had reached the height of its success with revenues approaching $1 billion and 4,000 employees, Arazi knew that personal computers were transforming the industry and it was time to move on to other business ventures.

After Arazi’s departure, Scitex continued to develop prepress workflow systems, laser imaging equipment, desktop scanners, digital color and soft proofing devices. The company participated in the transition from film-based workflows to the direct-to-plate revolution of the mid-1990s.

Along with all of its competitors, Scitex began to struggle financially and ended up selling its graphic arts group to Vancouver-based competitor Creo Products in 2000. The division of the company that went into digital printing called Scitex Vision was acquired along with the Scitex name by HP in 2005. The remainder of the business was renamed Scailex at that time.

In 1988 Efi Arazi founded Electronics for Imaging (EFI) at the age of 51. The new venture was no less successful then Scitex as EFI raster image processors were integrated in many high quality color laser and toner based printing devices. The EFI Fiery technology quickly became a standard in the graphic arts industry by the 1990s for low cost, high quality color proofs. The company—which bears the first name of its founder as an acronym—later expanded into ink jet printing devices, printing industry productivity software and print server and workflow software tools. Today EFI is one of the most important and successful technology companies in the rapidly changing printing industry. Efraim Arazi died on April 14, 2013 at age 76.

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John Crosfield (1915 – 2012): Printing press automation

Posted in Business systems, People in Media History, Phototypesetting, Print Media, Typography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2015 by multimediaman
John Crosfield

John Fothergill Crosfield: October 22, 1915 – March 25, 2012

Today’s digital and mobile wireless technologies are in a constant state of flux. As we pass the midpoint of 2015, the human computer interface is being once again transformed with haptic technology—tactile feedback from a device such as force or vibration.

If you have felt vibration in response to a touch function on your smartphone, then you have experienced haptics. What was until recently available only to virtual reality enthusiasts and gamers, is now a feature of every smartphone and tablet.

Technical evolution has been so fast that it is hard to believe smartphones have been around for less than eight years and the tablet is just a little over three years old. As we try to keep up with the pace of change, it is easy to miss the fact that the electronics revolution has been underway for more than a century and digital electronics represents less than half of that time period.

Electronic technology can be divided into two basic forms: analog and digital. Long before there were microprocessors and memory chips that exchange all information, data, code, signals, etc. in a series of zeroes and ones, there were analog electronics such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes and transistors.

The difference between a clock with hour, minute and second hands rotating around the face and the numerals on an Light Emitting Diode (LED) clock display is a simple illustration of analogue vs digital technology.

John Crosfield’s contributions to printing and the graphic arts spanned both analogue and digital electronics. His analogue systems were developed in the late 1940s and became dominant in the industry throughout the 1950s. When the first computers were introduced in the 1960s, Crosfield pioneered digital electronics and became a major worldwide provider of equipment into the 1960s and mid-70s.

Crosfield’s youth

Young John Crosfield

Young John F. Crosfield

John Fothergill Crosfield was born into a well-off family. He was the third child and second son of prominent English Quakers. Born on October 22, 1915 in Hampstead, London—a community known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations—John had five siblings.

John’s father, Bertram Fothergill Crosfield, was managing director and co-proprietor of the News Chronical and The Star, both liberal daily newspapers in London. Bertram was also leader of several Hampstead organizations. John’s mother, Eleanor Cadbury, was the daughter of the famous chocolate maker and leading Quaker, George Cadbury. Eleanor was well-known independently of her father and was elected as a Liberal to Bucks County Council.

John showed an early interest in building things. As a boy, he was often busy in the family workshop making boats, steam engines and other mechanical devices. He once built a cannon and tested it on the garage door. The projectile went through the door and damaged his father’s Daimler. He was fond of trains and, with the assistance of a childhood friend, built an O gauge model railroad on the property of his school grounds.

At age 13 John was enrolled in Leighton Park School, a Quaker establishment. He enjoyed studying physics and math and decided he wanted to pursue engineering at college. Following in his father’s footsteps, John enrolled at Trinity College Cambridge. He designed and built gliders and other flying machinery such as a winch launcher in his spare time. Although he had many hobbies, John was an exceptional student and put most of his time into his studies.

John graduated from Cambridge in 1936 and went to Munich, Germany to improve his language skills. He came into contact with anti-Semitism and Nazi propaganda and was horrified by Hitler’s methods. Upon his return to England, John’s accounts of the treatment of political prisoners in Germany were met with disbelief.

World War II

John Crosfield was a member of a generation of engineers whose formative experiences were made in World War II. Much of the technology advancements that were deployed throughout industry in the post war period originated in the struggle by the warring countries for military supremacy.

After he left Cambridge, Crosfield took a student-apprentice engineering position with British Thomson-Hudson (BTH), a heavy industry firm based in Warwickshire. BTH was founded as a subsidiary of the US-based General Electric Company (GE) and specialized in steam turbines. In 1938, he left BTH and went to work at the Stockholm facility of ASEA, a Swedish version of BTH and GE. When the war began in 1939, John made his way back to England and planned to join the Navy.

Crosfield used some connections at ASEA to get an assignment by the Admiralty to the Mine Design Department. It was here that Crosfield’s electronic genius would begin to be expressed. He worked on a magnetic mine project that could detect German boats near British harbors.

Crosfield also designed and built a prototype of an acoustic mine that could pick up on the sound of the propeller of wooden German E-boats. The acoustic mine became a success with 200 being deployed in the Baltic Sea and sinking 47 enemy vessels. Crosfield and his colleagues later worked on the development of both acoustic and subsonic mines. He got involved in the production process and in 1944 Crosfield’s inventions proved extremely effective in major battles at the Straits of Dover and the Western Approaches.

Crosfield Electronics Limited & the Autotron

1949 advertisement for the Crosfield Autotron, the first automated electronic register control system

1949 advertisement for the Crosfield Autotron, the first automated electronic register control system

After the war, John Crosfield decided—after having learned from his experience at ASEA that some of the projects that he had worked on would never be funded—to start his own business. In 1947, he set up a lab in Hampstead and began working on new projects. He later recalled that in 1945, while he was in charge of electronics research for the Admiralty, he was approached by a printing industry representative about the problem of color registration on high speed rotogravure magazine presses. There was a need for an automated system to align all the process colors in the printed page to improve quality and reduce press waste.

With about £2,000 of his own money and another £2,500 borrowed from family members, Crosfield set out to design an electronic and automated registration system for color printing. After 18 months of hard work, the “Autotron” was tested as a prototype on the production of Women’s Weekly at Amalgamated Press in London. Prior to the Autotron, a magazine production run would often waste 25-30% of the impressions using manual controls. Crosfield’s automatic register system brought the waste figures down to 4-5%.

The Autotron consisted of a scanning heads mounted on each printing unit and a control cubicle that was located away from the press. The scanning heads picked up “register marks”—unobtrusive symbols on the printed page that were hidden from view—to regulate the movement of the printed image from unit to unit with an accuracy of one thousandth (1/1000) of an inch.

Word about the Autotron travelled quickly in the printing industry and Crosfield was soon taking prepaid orders from companies in Britain. An opportunity to show the system at the British Industries Fair in 1949 made Autotron an international phenomenon and orders were quickly being placed from printers in countries around the world.

Pressroom automation

The success of the Autotron encouraged John Crosfield to invest in further research in pressroom automation for gravure magazine printing and other presses such as offset newspaper and packaging print.

In Recollections of Crosfield Electronics, 1947 to 1975, John Crosfield wrote, “My philosophy was to concentrate our research on new electronic aids for the printing industry, in order to maximize the use of our electronic ‘know how’ on the one hand and our sales contacts in the printing industry on the other. Eventually we had the greatest range of electronic equipment for the printing industry of any company in the world.”

In the 1950s, Crosfield developed a suite of successful automation products for the industry:

  • Secatron: an optical system for packaging printers that kept images in the right position on the cardboard so they would look right on the finished carton.
  • Webatron: a system similar to Autotron for high speed presses that regulated the movement of paper through the press for delivery to folders and sheeters.
  • Trakatron: a system for regulating print on web-fed cellophane and wax paper presses.
  • Idotron: a system for measuring ink density on a web press to keep color reproduction consistent during press runs.
  • Viscomex: an ink viscosity control system that added solvents to the ink automatically as needed as a result of evaporation.
  • Flying Paster: an automatic splicing mechanism that enabled production to go from one roll of paper to the other without slowing down or stopping the press.
Crosfield Idotron measured and adjusted ink density inline on a high speed rotogravure press

Crosfield Idotron measured and adjusted ink density inline on a high speed rotogravure press

Many of these systems relied upon photo-electric cells to detect movement of paper or printed images on the paper. Crosfield’s expertise in the area of optical sensors lead him to several other important breakthroughs in the composition and preparatory stages of print production. These developments took place in an environment of intense global competition with companies in Europe, the US and Middle East.

Phototypesetting and color scanning

The Crosfield Lumitype 450 was the first phototypesetting system designed and built in Europe. It was licensed to Crosfield by the US based Photon.

The Crosfield Lumitype 450 was the first phototypesetting system designed and built in Europe. It was licensed to Crosfield by the US based Photon.

By the 1960s, the printing industry had been moving rapidly into offset lithography. A major factor in this regard was the displacement of hot metal typesetting with cold type, i.e. phototypesetting systems. While Crosfield was not the inventor of the first phototypesetter, his company was a designer and builder of the Lumitype 540 under patents from the original inventors at Photon in the US. This relationship would continue through the development of the high speed Photon 713 in 1965, which was the first computer controlled phototypesetting system.

Among the greatest successes of Crosfield Electronics, Ltd. was its color scanning systems. The Crosfield Scanatron—which was developed in 1958—was the first scanning technology that could make color corrections and eliminate the time-consuming work of retouchers.

The Crosfield Magnascan was the first color scanning device that could retouch color electronically.

The Crosfield Magnascan was the first color scanning device that could retouch color electronically.

Crosfield continued with advancements in color scanning throughout the 1960s. The Magnascan was introduced in 1969 and it was capable of scanning a color transparency. It also had the software capability to adjust the size, form, color and hue such that the printed image was of the finest quality anywhere.

While the Magnascan was an international success, it was developed at the same time as Rudolf Hell’s Chromograph. Recognizing that a battle over who invented and patented the drum scanner first, the two men signed an agreement giving cross licenses for a modest royalty. Crosfield and Hell remained good friends from that point forward.

Impact of desktop computing

John Crosfield receiving the gold medal of the Institute of Printing in 1973

John Crosfield receiving the gold medal of the Institute of Printing in 1973

In addition to accomplishments in the graphic arts, Crosfield Electronics Limited (CEL). also developed computerized business systems and—leveraging the expertise in optical devices—invented a very successful automated bank note sorting and processing technology.

While the company was very successful in the printing market, an attempt to take CEL public in 1974 was made during a collapse of the stock exchange and Crosfield ended up selling his business to De La Rue. The color scanning segment of his business—the most profitable aspect of CEL—was sold by De La Rue in 1989 to a joint venture of Fuji and DuPont called Fujifilm Electronics Imaging.

With the introduction of the desktop PC—and especially the desktop publishing system associated with the Apple Macintosh computer in 1985 and shortly thereafter desktop flatbed scanners—Crosfield’s era graphic arts electronics had come to a close.

John Crosfield received many accolades for his contributions to the printing industry over nearly five decades, including four United Kingdom Queen’s Awards and the gold medal of the Institute of Printing in 1973. He remained a board member of De La Rue until 1985 and thereafter was Honorary President of CEL. A very modest, personable and generous man, John Crosfield died on March 25, 2012 at his home in Hampstead at age 96.

Rudolf Hell (1901 – 2002): Electronic engraving, typesetting and color scanning

Posted in People in Media History, Phototypesetting, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2015 by multimediaman
Rudolf Hell: December 19, 1901 – March 11, 2002

Rudolf Hell: Dec 19, 1901 – Mar 11, 2002

During the twentieth century, printing technology made a major transition from mechanical and photomechanical to analog electronic and digital systems. The process took decades and by the 1990s all the technology of graphic arts production was impacted: design, text and image acquisition, typesetting, prepress, printing, binding and finishing. The result of this innovation was a dramatic improvement in the speed, quality, variety and complexity of printed material.

It is remarkable how the pace of electronic advancement—beginning with Marconi’s December 1901 wireless trans-Atlantic radio broadcast—accelerated throughout the century and influenced every industry and occupation. There were many important theoreticians, scientists and engineers that participated in this progression. A few of the most familiar names from the early 1900s are Planck (quantum theory,) Fleming (diode) and Einstein (relativity).

Rudolf Hell, whose life spanned the entire twentieth century, was an outstanding representative of the generation of engineers who participated in the electronics revolution. Particularly after World War II, Hell was responsible for many critical inventions related to the image reproduction aspects of printing. The truth is that Rudolf Hell is such an important figure and his inventions are so numerous—he is credited with more than 130 patents—that it is only possible to focus here on the most significant of his achievements.

Early years

Rudolf Hell was born on December 19, 1901 in Eggmühl, Germany, about 70 miles northeast of Munich. Rudolf’s father Karl Hell was the train stationmaster for the Royal Bavarian Railway at Eggmühl. The family lived in the romantic style station building and it was here that Rudolf had early exposure to the telegraph.

Young Rudolf Hell

The young Rudolf Hell

Rudolf’s mother was the daughter of a brewery owner and he would later describe her as “vivacious.” It seems that Rudolf inherited his entrepreneurialism from his mother since his father was very much “a proper official” and “quite relaxed and Bavarian in character.” When Rudolf was six years old, his father relocated the family to the town of Eger—now a border town in the Czech Republic—to become the stationmaster of an Austro-Hungarian freight station, an important transfer point to the Saxon and Bohemian railway lines. Rudolf attended school for twelve years in Eger.

While in high school at the Rudolphinum Oberrealschule, Hell earned high marks in math and science. He would later explain, “I was always the best in physics, and in mathematics too. I was mediocre in languages, and poor in the subjects that required me to study a lot.” Just before age eighteen, Rudolf enrolled in the Technical University at Munich (THM) to study electrical engineering.

In 1923, he received a masters degree from THM in electrical engineering at the age of 22. He then became Assistant to Professor Max Dieckmann, a specialist in wireless telegraphy at the university. While continuing his studies, Hell worked with Dieckmann on innovations in radio direction finding and television technology.

Germany is home to the invention of the CRT (cathode ray tube) and the oscilloscope by Karl Ferdinand Braun in 1897. This device is the foundation of the first functioning television systems that were invented more or less simultaneously by Takayanagi (Japan), Farnsworth (US) and Zworykin (USSR and US) in the mid-1920s. For many people, the idea of transmitting moving pictures through a wireless medium was a fantasy. Such was the case with Dieckmann’s superiors at THM who forced the professor to rename his course in “wireless television” to something less provocative.

Professor Max Dieckmann

Professor Max Dieckmann

This did not stop Rudolf Hell. In 1925, he filed a patent along with Dieckmann for a photoelectric scanning tube that was basically a primitive television camera. The concept behind this device—the “image dissector tube”—was that images or scenes could be broken up into small picture elements and transmitted to a receiver for viewing. In that same year, Hell and Dieckmann presented a complete radio-based television system at the Transport Exposition in Munich that included a reception station.

Rudolf Hell’s “image dissection,” transmission and reassembly of picture elements (pixels) is at the heart of his remarkable career. To understand the significance of the accomplishment, it is useful to put it into a modern day perspective. In 1925, Hell’s “image dissector tube” was understood by a handful of engineers and physicists; today, the concept and its practical application are familiar to billions of people all over the world in the form of “megapixel” cameras in their mobile phones.

In 1927, Hell received a Ph.D. for his dissertation on “direct-indicating radio direction finder for aviation.” Far ahead of its time, this system enabled pilots to navigate their flights in poor visibility conditions by homing in on a radio beacon. While initially ridiculed by “experts” because “no one flies in the fog anyway and when the weather is clear you don’t need it,” Hell’s invention became the technical basis of all automatic guidance systems and aircraft autopilot technologies. Rudolf Hell received the present-day equivalent of $750,000 from firms in Germany and the US for the license to use his invention in their aviation equipment.

Hell-Schreiber (precursor to the fax)

The young Rudolf had always said he did not want to remain in academia as an “ivory tower scientist.” He ended his time as Assistant to Max Dieckmann, took the money he had earned and founded his own business called Dr.-Ing. Rudolph Hell Company in May 1929 in Neubabelsberg near Berlin. It was here that Hell began work on a project that would bring him significant worldwide recognition.

1933 Siemens Model Hell-Schreiber and a diagram from Hell’s 1929 patent

1933 Siemens Model Hell-Schreiber and a diagram from Hell’s 1929 patent

On his 1929 patent application, Hell called his new invention a “device for electrically transmitting written characters” and it was later renamed the Hell-Schreiber. The device—in which originals were broken into dots and electronically transmitted, received and reassembled—later became the basis of the fax machine. Rudolf sold the patent for his invention to Siemens for the equivalent of $500,000 and he used the money to invest in his business.

At 28-years-old and married, Hell hired about a dozen employees to work in his company machine shop, design office, laboratory and business office located in a house that he bought in Berlin-Dahlem. In 1931, Hell expanded the production operations of his company to accommodate the growth and influence of the Hell-Schreiber. By 1934 the device was being used by news agencies across the globe including the major German agencies, Reuters and TASS.

When World War II started, news organizations and governments alike used the Hell-Schreiber because it was not susceptible to transmission disturbances that were frequent during wartime. By the end of the war, Hell had sold more than 50,000 units and expanded the offerings of his company to include radio position-finding equipment, radio compasses and encryption devices.

As a businessman who refused to leave Germany during the war, Rudolf Hell chose to maintain his company and its two factories and 1,000 employees throughout the conflict. In the end, the bombing of Berlin between 1940 and 1945 resulted in the partial destruction of the Hell manufacturing facilities and the business was lost.

Post-war printing technologies

Rudolf Hell declined an offer to relocate his enterprise in Britain after the war and instead elected rebuild in the city of Kiel in the north of Germany. Beginning in 1947, Hell started on a path that would lead to important contributions to electronic graphic arts technology.

The reestablishment of The Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell Company in Kiel was difficult since resources, materials and tools were in limited supply. Hell’s first post-war contract was with Siemens and he worked on several projects including a fax machine with a spinning drum and a flatbed scanner/printer. These projects were way ahead of their time—Japanese companies such as Canon successful developed and marketed these technologies 20 years later—and Siemens decided abandoned them.

Rudolf Hell’s previous discoveries and accomplishments in image dissection led him in the 1950s to explore electronic systems for the graphic arts that would replace the previous generation of mechanical and photomechanical methods. The following are the most important of Hell’s inventions in this field:

  • The original design of the KlischographKlischograph (1951): Hell first tested this device that scanned originals and converted them electronically into an engraved printing block. The Klischograph, which was released commercially to the newspaper industry in 1954, dramatically reduced the production time required to make halftone plates by combining three stages of production—film processing, screening and etching—into one operation.
  • DigiSet Model T50 and the type character conceptDigiset (1956): In the early 1950s, Hell developed a technology called Digiset. Different from the technology of other phototypesetting equipment of the era—where complete characters are projected onto photographic material from a negative—the Digiset built each characters from digital elements and projected them onto a CRT and then this image was projected onto photosensitive material. With this system, Rudolf Hell invented the first “bitmap” fonts that would become standard technology in desktop publishing three decades later. The system was launched commercially in 1965.
  • The original design of the flatbed ColorgraphColorgraph (1956): By the late 1950s technology firms were locked in an international race to invent an electronic scanning system that could produce process color separations. Rudolf Hell was well positioned to compete. He put significant resources into the development of a flatbed scanning system that could convert an original photographic transparency or print into fully color corrected separations all in one step. Hell launched the Colorgraph system commercially in 1958.
  • The original design of the Helio-KlischographHelio-Klischograph (1961): In October 1959, Hell was approached by a representative of a major German publishing company and asked to devise an electronic system for automated engraving of gravure cylinders. By 1960, Hell had developed a prototype system on a lathe that employed the Klischograph engraving head. Hell’s solution—that enabled mass production of gravure cylinders for illustration, decorative and packaging printing—was debuted at DRUPA in 1962. The Helio-Klischograph system replaced approximately ten separate manual steps in gravure cylinder preparation and is still in use today.
  • The original design of the ChromagraphChromagraph (1963): Throughout the 1960s, Hell perfected the successful scanning and cylinder technologies of the Klischograph and Colorgraph. Striving for the most advanced drum scanning technology of the era, Hell was in a rivalry with John Crosfield of London for the first system to market. By 1967, Rudolf Hell had filed a patent application for his daylight drum scanning technology and the Chromograph DC300 system was brought to market in 1970. Hell drum scanning technology became the standard for high quality color reproduction in the printing industry for the next three decades and some of these systems remain in use to this day.

These inventions taken as a whole represent a stage in the transition of print technology from the mechanical to the digital age. Later referred to as “proprietary” systems, the self-contained computerized solutions of Rudolf Hell—and others like Crosfield, Scitex and Linotype—in the 1950s, 60s and 70s were the precursors to the desktop publishing revolution of the mid-1980s.

Rudolf Hell, who is sometimes called the Thomas Edison of the graphic arts industry, continued to develop these early electronic technologies —along with others like the electronic page composition system called ChromaCom—right up to the 50th anniversary of his company in 1979.

Rudolph Hell retired from the management of his company but remained active as chairman of the board in 1972. In 1981, he sold the business to Siemens and became honorary chairman of the supervisory board. He officially retired in 1989 and the firm was sold again to Linotype creating the Linotype-Hell Company. The assets of Linotype-Hell were acquired by Heidelberg in 1996 and the technologies pioneered by Rudolf Hell were incorporated into the Heidelberg prepress and press systems.

Hell was the recipient of numerous accolades and honors during his lifetime including the Gutenberg Award (1977), Werner-von-Siemens Ring in recognition of achievements in the natural sciences and technology (1978) and Honorary Citizen of Kiel (1979) and a Kiel city street was named after him (2001).  Rudolf Hell died in Kiel on March 11, 2002 at 100 years old.

What our doctors are telling us about the health of the printing industry

Posted in Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2015 by multimediaman

Two well-known Ph.D. economists recently published important reports on the condition of printing markets and printing businesses. Naturally, we should ask the question: what do our doctors have to say about the health of our industry?

Dr. Joe Webb, WhatTheyThink.com

Dr. Joe Webb, WhatTheyThink.com

Dr. Joe Webb, with a Ph.D. from the NYU Center for Graphic Communications Management, is director of WhatTheyThink.com’s Economic Research Center. Dr. Webb published a blog on February 4 on current quantitative indicators entitled, “2014 US Commercial Printing Rebounds from Poor First Half with Positive Third and Fourth Quarters.”

After a slow start in 2014, commercial printing shipments finished nearly even with 2013 and with most of the turnaround coming in December. “It was the first positive December since 2010. At that time, however, current shipments were more that $7 billion; December 2014 shipments were nearly $6.52 billion,” Webb wrote.

US Commercial Printing Shipments

He deduced that the strong December shipments were most likely the result of print that was generated by:

  1. The contentious mid-term local and regional election cycle
  2. A surge in local retail and holiday shopping promotions

However, Dr. Doom—as Joe Webb is sometimes called—had a warning against any false optimism that the December figures were part of a long-term growth trend. He wrote, “It is unlikely that this is a bottoming-out trend of industry shipments patterns, but a marked slowdown in the decline of real shipments. It is likely it is a sideways pause before another shift in media implementation.”

Media implementation refers to corporate marketing strategies that allocate budgets for the different communications channels, i.e. print, TV, radio, mobile, social, etc. There are contending opinions developing at the corporate marketing level regarding the effectiveness of digital approaches (computer, tablet and smartphone) versus tradition print such (direct mail, insert media, etc.).

Finally, Webb gave a warning, “Again, we remind readers that aggregate industry shipment data trends are not the certain destinies of all print businesses. Processes and product offerings are changing as market demands require. Getting ahead of those changes is essential.

“A slowdown in industry contraction, and even short-term increases, should be viewed as breathing room for thoughtful business re-configuration for the future.”

Dr. Ronnie H. Davis, Printing Industries of America

Dr. Ronnie H. Davis, Printing Industries of America

Dr. Ronnie H. Davis, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the Printing Industries of America Economic and Market Research Department published the second report called, “Industry Briefing: Competing in Print’s Dynamic Marketspace in 2015.” Dr. Davis’s report, although it also contains economic data, is a qualitative analysis of the major trends of the printing industry; it examines the overall economic environment, print sales volumes and profitability of the past decade. The report assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of different forms of print media, different approaches to business strategy by printing companies and provides a forecast for each through the year 2021.

Recovery GapAfter explaining that the overall economy has still to “get out of second gear” following the recession of 2008-2009, Davis says that we should expect only “modest improvement” in the coming period. One of the impacts of the Great Recession is that the recovery is lagging behind previous recessionary cycles by about 4.8% or an average of about 1.2% growth per year. This “recovery gap” means that, at best, we will experience a leveling off or growth plateau that will remain between 2% and 3% into the near future.

GDP vs Nominal Print

In spite of this less than optimistic view of the economy as a whole, Dr. Davis makes an extremely important point about the relationship of print to GDP. For several years, industry analysts have been pointing to a divergence of printing industry annual growth numbers from the performance of the overall economy. But, according to the PIA report, “print still correlates with the economy.” This means that the impact of the Internet and digital alternatives may not have forced a detachment of print from general economic activity as had been previously thought. It may be the case that the responsiveness of print to GDP has lagged, but its ups and downs still correlate nonetheless.

As he has done in the past, Dr. Davis categorizes the functions of print into three groups:

  1. Inform and Communicate: Publications, Newspapers, Books, Legal Printing
  2. Product Logistics: Labels, Packaging Printing
  3. Market and Promote: Direct Mail, Signage

Print by Function

By far, the biggest drain on the printing industry is the first category; Inform and Communicate. The decline in magazine, newspaper and book printing—forms that are most susceptible to digital media alternatives and face dramatic declines in their revenue models—are pulling the rest of the industry down. According to Dr. Davis, this category—with a volume equal to one and a half times that of the other two categories combined—experienced a decline of 2% in 2014 and will see a drop of another 2.5% in 2015.

Meanwhile, Product Logistics—which represents somewhere around one tenth of the total volume of print—experienced an increase of 2.5% in 2014 and is expected to grow another 3% in 2015. According to Dr. Davis, the Market and Promote category is basically flat with a growth of 2% in 2014 and an expected growth of 1% in 2015.

The business trajectory of companies in the industry is another subject that PIA and Dr. Davis have been following for some years. Davis defines the product and service spectrum within the printing industry marketspace in the following four groups:

  1. Printed Products
  2. Ancillary and Adjacent Marketspace
  3. Communications Solutions
  4. Outsourced Print Management Services

As any given company moves from the top to the bottom of this list, they are migrating further and further away from the attributes of a “commercial printer” and into a more strategic partnership with their clients. Products and services that extend beyond and eliminate the competitive job-by-job bidding process make it possible for firms to develop relationships that add strategic value rather than low cost printing.

Additionally, Dr. Davis’s report contains information from a study of management approaches by printing industry companies that shows those that practice strategic planning have higher profit rates than those that do not.

PIA Long Term Print Forecast by Function

Finally, the PIA report considers a view of the industry six years out from now. Dr. Davis writes, “We project aggregate U.S. printing shipments to decline from $158.5 billion in 2015 to $143.6 billion in 2021—a reduction of around $15 billion or 9.4 percent. Although this is a fairly substantial decline, it is gradual (about 1.5 percent per year) and even at the end of the forecast period, print’s economic footprint remains large—over $143 billion, making it still one of the largest U.S. manufacturing industries. Additionally, two out of three print functions are expected to grow (print logistics and print marketing/promotion). Only print’s communication/inform function is projected to decline.”

It is clear from the reports published by both of our doctors that the health of the printing industry is improving, if only marginally. While much depends on the overall performance of the economy, print still remains a major manufacturing industry in the US with $155 billion in annual shipments, 45,000 establishments and nearly 1 million employees. As the industry continues to consolidate and shrink, business leaders must respond to the changes being made in customer markets, i.e. shifts in media implementation and segments that are most susceptible to digital alternatives.

Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011): Fonts and desktop publishing

Posted in Digital Media, Graphical User Interface, People in Media History, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2015 by multimediaman

Steven P. Jobs’ role in creating the first personal computer (along with his neighborhood friend Steve Wozniak), the founding of Apple Computer and his subsequent firing and return to the company have become part of tech industry lore. His later contributions to mobile, wireless and touch computing—embodied in the Apple iPod, iPhone and iPad—were no less transformative.

Steven P.  Jobs in 1984

Steven P. Jobs in 1984

Although Steve Jobs had extensive knowledge of computer hardware, operating systems and applications—he even worked for a short time in the early 1970s as a technician for Atari—his greatest skills were as technology visionary, marketer and salesman. Without the entrepreneurial drive, leadership charisma and design esthetic of Steve Jobs, Apple would never have emerged as the world’s largest publicly traded corporation; nor would it have the most loyal customers in the history of the consumer products industries.

Owing a great deal to the location and times of his upbringing, Steve Jobs expressed a broad cultural viewpoint and considered every project and product as an aspect of a larger creative purpose. Having developed an enthusiasm for the Bauhaus movement’s form and function philosophy, he identified design simplicity with products that were both beautiful and easy to use.

In his 2012 biography, Walter Isaacson quotes Steve Jobs from the early 1980s, “So that’s our approach. Very simple, and we’re really shooting for Museum of Modern Art quality. The way we’re running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple.” Jobs rejected the boxy, bulky and dark industrial style of the earlier generation of computer design in favor of elegance and what he later called “taste.”

It was out of this unique blending of art with science and business that Steve Jobs made two significant contributions to typography and printing technology: the creation of computer fonts and the launching of desktop publishing. As with every innovation associated with his name, Jobs relied on the skills of others to realize his vision and then packaged and presented the accomplishments with great fanfare to investors and consumers alike.

Computer Fonts

Jobs’ esthetic sensibility had been formed a decade earlier while he was briefly a student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 1972. After dropping out of school, he enrolled in a calligraphy course at Reed taught by Father Robert Palladino. The course had a lasting impact on him.

As Jobs explained in a commencement address he delivered to Stanford University in 2005: “Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. … I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”

“None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography.”

While working with the Macintosh design team, Jobs was involved in every detail of its size, shape and color as well as every icon, window and box of the graphical user interface. This involvement included the design of a group of fonts which he insisted be named for the great cities of the world: Cairo, Chicago, Geneva, London, Los Angeles, Monaco (monospaced system font), New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Venice.

Apple Macintosh font and desktop icon designer Susan Kare, developer Andy Hertzfeld and engineer Bill Atkinson

Apple Macintosh font and desktop icon designer Susan Kare, developer Andy Hertzfeld and engineer Bill Atkinson

Prior to the work of Macintosh designer Susan Kare, developer Andy Hertzfeld and engineer Bill Atkinson on proportional fonts, computers were mostly limited to monospaced typefaces much like a typewriter with al alphanumeric characters and keystrokes the exact same width. Jobs could see that the bitmapped display of the Macintosh desktop was capable of rendering typefaces with a sophistication equal to that of letterpress hot metal type and cold phototypesetting.

Others at Apple Computer, due to their limited perspective on the utility of the personal computer, could not relate to Steve Jobs’ insistence on the font library; they considered it a distracting personal obsession. In his biography of Jobs, Walter Isaacson quotes Apple investor and partner Mark Markkula: “I kept saying, ‘Fonts?!? Don’t we have more important things to do?’ ”

The original Macintosh font library

The original Macintosh font library

When Steve Jobs launched the Macintosh on January 24, 1984 at the Flint Center in Cupertino, the font library was a critical part of the presentation of “the computer for the rest of us.” It was the first desktop system to offer not only the 9 city-named fonts listed above but also style choices—Plain, Bold, Italic, Bold Italic, Underline, Outline, Shadowed—for each.

While initially appearing somewhat primitive, bitmapped and lacking the finesse of professional typography, Jobs’ on-screen fonts were the beginning of a revolution in type technology. Firstly, fonts became something that everyone with a computer could use, not just professional graphic designers and printing specialists.

Secondly, the Macintosh font library encouraged professionals to push the limits of computer-generated typography and eventually transformed the field of typesetting altogether. Soon desktop fonts surpassed the quality and versatility of all previous type technologies and offered WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) output; i.e. the image displayed on the computer screen is precisely what is printed onto a sheet of paper or other final output media.

Desktop Publishing

Steve Jobs understood the promise of WYSIWYG long before the phrase was widely used in the printing and publishing industries. Nearly one year to the day after unveiling the Macintosh, Jobs was back on stage in Cupertino at the annual Apple stockholders meeting on January 23, 1985 to launch the Apple LaserWriter and demonstrate the first ever desktop publishing system.

Desktop publishing signifies an integrated publishing system whereby pages containing both text and graphics are designed in layout software on a desktop computer and printed in individual or multiple copies on a desktop printer. Building on the accomplishments of the Macintosh, Steve Jobs worked throughout 1984 with partner companies and publishing industry experts to integrate the Apple Macintosh computer with other basic elements of desktop publishing: the Apple LaserWriter, Adobe PostScript and Aldus PageMaker.

The Apple LaserWriter, Apple project manager Bruce Blumberg and laser printer invertor Gary Starkweather

The Apple LaserWriter, Apple project manager Bruce Blumberg and laser printer invertor Gary Starkweather 

Apple LaserWriter: Gary Starkweather invented the core toner imaging technology of the laser printer at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. Although Xerox never brought a desktop laser printer to market, HP and Canon developed systems independently of each other in the 1970s. The HP LaserJet, based on the Canon LBP-CX printing engine, was the first desktop laser printer and was released in 1984. The Apple LaserWriter, developed by a team led by project manager Bruce Blumberg, had two important differences with the HP device: it was networked (with AppleTalk) and could be shared and contained breakthrough PostScript software that enabled true WYSIWYG capability. The Apple LaserWriter was available for purchase in March 1985 and sold for $6,995.

PostScript Language Reference Manual. Steve Jobs talking with Chuck Geschke (left) and John Warnock of Adobe in January 1985.

PostScript Language Reference Manual. Steve Jobs talking with Chuck Geschke (left) and John Warnock of Adobe in January 1985.

Adobe Postscript: The software at the heart of the Apple LaserWriter was Adobe’s PostScript page description language. John Warnock and Chuck Geschke, who also came from Xerox PARC, founded Adobe Systems in 1982 with PostScript as their flagship product. Warnock and Geschke developed a state-of-the-art device independent print programming language that: 1.) captured all the elements—text, graphics, geometry, etc. —on the page of the desktop layout software during the “Print” function; 2.) interpreted the layout data as vector-based objects within the memory of the printer and; 3.) converted the PostScript objects into raster print data such that the page could to rendered onto a sheet of paper at a resolution of 300 dots per inch. The Adobe founders also signed a licensing agreement with Linotype that made 13 professional typefaces (four styles for each of the Helvetica, Times Roman and Courier families and a Symbol font) “resident” within the PostScript raster image processor (RIP) in the Apple LaserWriter.

Paul Brainerd and an early version of Aldus PageMaker on the Macintosh

Paul Brainerd and an early version of Aldus PageMaker on the Macintosh 

Aldus PageMaker: Paul Brainerd—the man who coined the phrase “desktop publishing”—founded Aldus Corporation in February 1984 in Seattle, WA. With a background in computerized newspaper publishing systems, Brainerd and a group of developers began working on layout software initially for newspapers. After getting some early peeks at the Apple Macintosh, Adobe PostScript and Apple LaserWriter, the Aldus team developed PageMaker as the first application capable of placing columns of text and images onto a virtual page and used a floating tool palette. The first commercially available version of PageMaker was released in July 1985 and sold for $495.

John W. Seybold

John W. Seybold

An important advisor to Steve Jobs throughout the process was John Seybold, a pioneer in computerized publishing systems and industry consultant. According to Paul Brainerd, “There were a couple of people that really were the glue that made all of this come together, and the most important was Jonathan Seybold. He was consulting to both Adobe and Apple. He and I knew each other for a long time going back … he told me some time during ’84, probably in the first quarter, that there was some confidential information that I needed to know. He got clearance from his clients to be able to share it with me.”

In an account published by Adobe in 2004, Jonathan Seybold reviewed the significance of the events that unfolded during the summer of 1984, “Steve wanted to see me urgently. He said they had a deal with Adobe, they were signing a deal with Linotype, they had real fonts. I went to Cupertino and walked into this tiny room, and there stood Jobs and Warnock with a Mac and a LaserWriter. He showed me what they were up to. I turned to Steve and said, ‘You’ve just turned publishing on its head. This is the watershed event.’ ”

Although they are less celebrated, Steve Jobs’ introduction of the Apple Macintosh font library and his pivotal role in launching the desktop publishing revolution in 1984-85 were watershed developments because they made designing and publishing accessible to anyone with a desktop computer and printer. The lasting impact of Jobs’ breakthrough continues to be felt today in the explosion of online and social media publishing by billions of people across the globe. Jobs’ death from cancer at age 56 on October 5, 2011 prematurely ended the life of one of the most important and unique figures of our times.

Albert Blake Dick: 1856 – 1934

Posted in People in Media History, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2014 by multimediaman
An illustration of Albert Blake Dick with a rotary mimeograph machine

An illustration of Albert Blake Dick with a rotary mimeograph machine

When I was in elementary school in the 1960s and into the early 1970s, teachers gave homework and classroom assignments, quizzes and tests on Ditto worksheets. We wrote on them so often that my classmates and I became intimately familiar with the aniline purple color of the Ditto—as well as the mesmerizing smell that emanated from the freshly printed sheets.

Making Dittos was a two-step process. The first step was to prepare the master, a two-ply form that had an easy-to-write-on paper sheet on top and a wax-coated sheet on the bottom. Our teachers would either hand write or typewrite the schoolwork onto one of these typically letter-size Ditto master forms. The pressure of the pen or the typewriter would transfer wax from the bottom sheet onto the back of the top sheet.

The second step—after discarding what was left of the bottom sheet—was to mount the master, bottom side up, onto the Ditto duplicating drum. The wrong-reading wax image contained the “ink” that was progressively broken down by the chemical spread across the drum as it was rotated—often by cranking the cylinder manually—and came into contact with the paper. Several dozen Ditto sheets could be easily produced within minutes.

A Ditto magazine ad from 1954 and a homework sheet from 1970

A Ditto magazine ad from 1954 and a homework sheet from 1970

On occasion, some of us even got to help out by operating the Ditto machine in the main office or teacher prep room. With the potentially messy and smelly solvent involved, sometimes there were mishaps. I bet our teachers ruined their clothes more than once fiddling around with the Ditto chemistry.

* * * * *

The Ditto machine was the American variety of a duplicating system that became popular internationally—the Banda in the UK and the Roneo in France and Australia—in schools, churches, clubs and other small organizations. The Ditto is known generically as a spirit duplicator; the term “spirit” referring to its alcohol-based solvent.

The faintly pleasant odor of the Ditto came from the fact that the each sheet was essentially being coated with “10% of monofluoro tri-chloro methane and 90% of a mixture of 50% methyl alcohol, 40% ethyl alcohol, 5% water and 5% of ethylene glycol mono-ethyl ether.” This composition was developed in the 1930s as a less dangerous alternative to the original spirits of pure methyl/ethyl alcohol with a tendency to combust in confined spaces and air temperatures above 100˚ F.

Since spirit duplicators were limited to a maximum of about 300 copies per master and the quality of reproduction as well as the cost per copy were very low, they became a DIY alternative to more sophisticated printing equipment. The Ditto was perhaps the most successful small office copying system during the four decades prior to the ascension of xerographic toner-based photocopiers in the 1970s.

Spirit duplicators were one of several document reproduction technologies that were developed for the office rather than the printing plant. Office duplicators were first invented in the late 1800s in response to the demands of business for efficiency and economy in reproducing company documents in small numbers. Alongside the typewriter, office duplicators answered the problem of business forms and letters by replacing the tedium of copying each one by hand.

Portrait of Albert Blake Dick

Portrait of Albert Blake Dick

Since commercially available printing machinery was very costly and too slow for these on-demand and short run copying needs, an alternative had to be found. In 1884, a Chicago lumber businessman devised a stencil-based method of document duplication that he would later call the “mimeograph.” From that point forward, the name “A.B. Dick” has been associated with the duplicating era of print technology.

Albert Blake Dick was born on April 16, 1856 in Galesburg, IL, a town about 175 miles southwest of Chicago and 50 miles northwest of Peoria. His parents, Adam Dick and Rebecca Wible, were from western Pennsylvania and decided to settle in Galesburg after helping to establish a church congregation in Quincy, IL.

Albert attended public school in Galesburg and then went to work for a farm equipment manufacturer in the area. After showing success as a manager, he became a partner in a lumber company. Just shy of his 28th birthday on April 11, 1884, the young Albert incorporated a lumber firm, the A.B. Dick Company, located at 740 Jackson Boulevard in Chicago.

It was during these early days that Albert preoccupied himself with the problem of business document reproduction. He rebelled against the effort wasted on a daily basis by hand copying price lists. Albert spent many hours experimenting with many unsuccessful ideas, most of them using the stencil principle.

The stencil method is distinct from other printing methods in which an inked image is mechanically transferred onto a substrate. Once a stencil sheet is prepared, it is mounted upon the ink-filled rotary duplicating drum. When a blank sheet of paper is brought into pressured contact with the rotating drum, ink is forced through the holes in the stencil onto the paper. Silk screening is also a form of stencil printing, but it utilizes a flatbed and squeegee process that is more wasteful than the process associated with A. B. Dick.

“My aim,” Albert would describe on the fiftieth anniversary of his company, “was to find a new means of duplicating letters other than by printing from moveable types, something more economical of both time and money.”

It did not take long. Sometime within the first year of his lumber firm, Albert sat down at his desk and across a piece of waxed paper he forced an awl (long pointed metal spike). After looking more carefully at what he had done, Albert noticed that the awl had left a series of tiny perforations on the wax paper. Developing this method, he perfected a sufficiently coated wax sheet as well as a stylus with which to write that could enable enough ink to be transferred to blank sheets of paper.

While his invention had achieved the immediate goal that he had set for himself, Albert returned his attention back to the development of his lumber company. For the next three years the stencil duplicating technique he pioneered remained an entirely internal matter at the A.B. Dick Company.

In 1887, following multiple inquiries by outsiders as to where a device such as his could be obtained, Albert decided to patent his invention with a plan to market and sell it to the broader business community. In a most peculiar and fortuitous coincidence it turned out that Thomas Alva Edison already held the patent for Albert’s stencil duplicating concept. In 1876, Edison had obtained a patent for his “Edison Electric Pen,” a more primitive implementation of the same principles that Albert had discovered independently, but nonetheless a very popular product.

With the Edison name behind him, Albert Blake Dick set out to sell the stencil printing Mimeograph system across the country

With the Edison name behind him, Albert Blake Dick set out to sell the stencil printing Mimeograph system across the country

Rather than walk away from the opportunity, the young Albert Blake Dick decided to approach Edison with his superior idea and see what arrangements could be made. Edison, ever the entrepreneur, readily accepted that Albert’s solution was simpler and more economical than his motorized pen technology. Furthermore, Edison agreed that his name would be associated with the product that Albert would develop and market.

In preparing to manufacture and sell the stencil system, Albert developed the trademark name. As he explained in 1934, “One day an old friend hit upon the combination of ‘mime’ and ‘graph.’ But it didn’t have the right swing. It wasn’t euphonious. Then the ‘o’ was added, to give it the swing—and the right euphony was acquired.”

The original Model 0 Flatbed Duplicator was sold as the Edison Mimeograph in 1887 and cost $12. A. B. Dick’s inventive genius did not stop there. By 1900, the company had developed the rotary Edison Diaphragm Mimeograph No. 61, the Edison Oscillating Mimeograph No. 71 and the A. B. Dick No.1 Folder, an automatic letter-folding machine.

A 1930 model of the A. B. Dick Mimeograph

A 1930 model of the A. B. Dick Mimeograph machine

By the 1910, there were 200,000 mimeograph machines in use and by 1940, nearly 500,000. In his Office Duplicating—which was printed in 1939 on an A.B. Dick Mimeograph machine—George H. Miller wrote, “There is little doubt that stencil duplicating in America owes its rapid and widespread growth to the Mimeograph machines and stencils as developed by the A.B. Dick Company.”

Albert Blake Dick died on August 15, 1934 and his son Albert Jr. took over the business at that time. In 1949, the company relocated to Niles, IL a suburb of Chicago. By the mid-1970s, while the Xerox machine was rapidly replacing the mimeograph, the A.B. Dick Company had annual sales of $300 million and employed more than 3,000 employees in the Chicago area.

As it declined, the firm was bought and sold by several concerns in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. In 2004, the A.B. Dick Company filed for bankruptcy and Presstek, a manufacturer of digital printing technologies, acquired the assets.

TGO & print media in the digital age

Posted in Digital Media, People in Media History, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2014 by multimediaman
The latest book by Joseph W. Webb, Ph. D. and Richard M. Romano

The latest book by Joseph W. Webb, Ph. D. and Richard M. Romano

In their latest book “This Point Forward: The New Start the Marketplace Demands,” Dr. Joseph W. Webb and Richard Romano offer the following blunt words for printing company representatives: “There is nothing worse than a bald or gray-haired guy standing in front of a bunch of young executives talking about how exciting print is. You’re not a wise elder statesman. You risk being perceived as an old relic who has no clue.”

Webb and Romano are inveighing against print media romanticism, i.e. nostalgic talk about the love of print, how it smells and feels, that it doesn’t require batteries or tech support and that it doesn’t crash or steal your identity, etc. They write “an increasing number of today’s communications and advertising managers do not expect to use print. Why should they? It doesn’t serve their purpose. … Today’s marketing communications managers are highly skilled digital media experts, who are both creative and innovative, and who are fluent in the statistical nature of digital media analytics.”

These are fundamental truths; cultural changes are shaking up the media business and the printing industry is not the only one facing problems. Digital streaming and on-demand have forever disrupted traditional radio and TV broadcast advertising. Any media business that tries to remain some kind of analog island amid the digital ocean is going to be swept under by the next technology or economic tidal wave.

For printing companies, this means morphing away from a print-centric to a digital-centric strategy. Understood as one of many choices that media buyers use to achieve their objectives, print can play a valuable and even critical role. For example, targeted and personalized direct mail­ can be central to a campaign as long it is integrated with a web, email and social media presence where the results are measureable. In short, the future of print depends on its integration into data driven analytics; print needs to be tracked, measured and cost justified or budgets for it will dry up and dollars will be spent on other more effective media forms.

Udi Arieli presenting the Theory of Global Optimization

Udi Arieli presenting the Theory of Global Optimization

While Webb and Romano give an exhaustive review of the strategic reboot that printers require to be successful through 2020, they spend little time on the operational aspects of this transformation. Fortunately, there is someone in the printing industry that has developed a groundbreaking approach to production that makes print a competitive and attractive option for marketers and advertisers for decades to come. That person is Udi Arieli of EFI® and his approach is the Theory of Global Optimization (TGO).

What is the Theory of Global Optimization?

The Theory of Global Optimization is an approach to operational management that responds to all external and internal challenges facing the printing industry today. Its goals are to:

  • improve performance
  • increase throughput
  • accomplish more with diminishing resources
  • increase profitability

It does these things, not with automated and digital equipment although these are critical assets of the printing company of the future, but as a proactive management philosophy. TGO educates the entire organization against the reactive and narrow thinking that predominated in an era when companies could achieve success with limited or no business theory at all.

The two basic concepts of the Theory of Global Optimization are:

  1. Adopt the Global View
    Printing—as well as other custom or “pull” manufacturing businesses—is a chain of independent links. As the complexity of the production process increases and the company grows in size, the need for a global view of the business intensifies. A wider perspective beyond an individual project, client, cost center or machine must guide the decision making on a day-to-day and hour-by-hour basis. The profitability of the business is the result of the sum total of the performance of all jobs, customers, departments and equipment within the company; this is the global view.
  2. Optimize the System
    All areas of the establishment must be synchronized and optimized. The weakest links in the chain—the few constraints within the company that have the most impact on throughput, on-time delivery and costs—must be identified and managed. It is not possible for any individual no matter how talented to comprehend the complex interaction of these variables within the operation. Advanced computerized data collection and scheduling software are required to integrate and automate the critical decision making process.

Evolution of manufacturing theory

For years Udi Arieli has pointed to the relationship of his theory to previous generations of scientific management theory. That the Theory of Global Optimization contains the accomplishments of manufacturing theory going back to the beginning of the industrial revolution—and is also the modern day continuation of those achievements in the digital age—is proven by the following historical review:

  • 1801: Eli Whitney / Interchangeable Parts
    Eli Whitney

    Eli Whitney

    Whitney is known for two related contributions to industrialization: the mechanized of farming (invention of the cotton gin in 1793) and, although he did not originate it, the promulgation of interchangeable parts. Whitney’s name is associated with the concept of interchangeable parts—the production of identical components made to specifications such that one part can freely and easily replace another—because he demonstrated the principle by assembling ten guns from a pile of mixed parts in front of Congress in July 1801. In the later 1800s this method became known as the “American system of manufacturing” as it increasingly utilized machine tools and semi-skilled labor to produce the parts to specified tolerances instead of the manual labor of skilled craftsmen.

  • 1911: Frederick Taylor / Scientific Management
    Frederick W. Taylor

    Frederick W. Taylor

    At the turn of the twentieth century, Frederick Taylor extended the ideas and methods of the American system of manufacturing by studying labor productivity and introducing advanced planning into the production process. What is now known as “Taylorism” introduced ideas of scientific management and process management onto the production floor. Concepts such as “workflow” and “automation” emerged later from Taylor’s breakthrough stopwatch time and motion studies and his analysis of the functions and stages of the manufacturing process.

  • 1913: Henry Ford / Assembly Line
    Henry Ford in 1914

    Henry Ford in 1914

    Both interchangeable parts and scientific management methods were employed by Henry Ford in the startup of assembly line production of the Model T on December 1, 1913 in the Highland Park, Michigan. Also known as progressive assembly, the breakthrough of the assembly line was described by one of Ford’s top executives and engineers, Charles E. Sorenson, as “the practice of moving the work from one worker to another until it became a complete unit, then arranging the flow of these units at the right time and the right place to a moving final assembly line from which came a finished product.” Although this method had been pioneered by Ransom Olds in 1901, Henry Ford is credited with perfecting and sponsoring it by agreeing to the installation of a motorized conveyor belt that enabled a Model T to be assembled in 93 minutes.

  • 1950: W. Edwards Deming / Process Control
    W. Edwards Deming in 1953

    W. Edwards Deming in 1953

    Following World War II, W. Edwards Deming further advanced scientific management theory by demonstrating that organizational cooperation and learning can improve manufactured product quality and reduce costs; that effective process control requires data gathering and measurement; that every process has a range and causes of variation in quality; that production workers should participate in continuous improvement initiatives. Deming gained worldwide notoriety for his pioneering work with the leaders of Japanese industry during what became known as the “Japanese post-war economic miracle” of 1950-1960. At first, Deming’s ideas were eschewed in the US for a host of cultural reasons. But by the 1980s, he was working directly with Ford Motor Company on a top to bottom quality manufacturing initiative and he would go on the become one of the most sought after experts on business management.

  • 1984: Eliyahu Goldratt / Theory of Constraints (TOC)
    Eliyahu Goldratt

    Eliyahu Goldratt

    In 1984, Eliyahu Goldratt wrote a novel called “The Goal,” which tells the story of Alex Rogo the manager of a production plant owned by UniCo Manufacturing. Rogo’s dilemma is that the plant is always running behind schedule and his job is on the line with upper management if he proves incapable of fixing the problems. The book was a clever method for Goldratt to explain his Theory of Constraints. TOC involves the successful management of constraints in the manufacturing process, i.e. focusing on those links in the chain—equipment, people and/or policies—that are preventing the organization from achieving its goal. Much of Goldratt’s TOC approach is derived from Deming’s notion that organizational cooperation and learning are keys to achieving agreed upon objectives; that measurement of indicators is required to gauge the impact of continuous improvement decisions.

  • 1984: Udi Arieli / Theory of Global Optimization (TGO)

    Udi Arieli

    Udi Arieli

    In the 1970s, as the third generation owner/operator of his family printing company in Israel, Udi Arieli realized that printing companies needed two things: a more advance business theory and smart software tools to manage the complex challenges they faced. In 1984, Arieli founded a company dedicated to developing intelligent production management solutions for the printing industry. While working on software, he established the elements of the Theory of Global Optimization. Arieli saw that the modern printing establishment (like many manufacturing businesses) had multiple interdependent processes—some were serial and some were parallel—that made manual- or analog-based decision making nearly impossible. Extending Goldratt’s theories, Arieli recognized that managing constraints in this dynamic environment required that production processes be replicated in a computerized scheduling model such that they could be globally synchronized and optimized. TGO is also derived from Deming’s teachings in that it educates and changes the thought process and culture of the entire business organization.

The future of print production management systems

Today TGO is more than a theory; it has become the foundation science on which EFI builds its management solutions. PrintFlow Dynamic Scheduling, for example, was the first software developed by Udi Arieli and his team based on the Theory of Global Optimization. PrintFlow acts as an operational umbrella for the business, gathering information about jobs, delivery commitments, production plans, resource availability and raw materials—generating run lists based on the best plan, not for an individual job, but for the business as a whole.

PrintFlow uses sequencing and optimization algorithms to maximize throughput while, at the same time, offering “what-if” and “weak-link” analytics to address real-world situations in real-time. PrintFlow is smart software that works with literally thousands of pieces of information to deliver a globally optimized plan that evolves with every new job and every new situation a printing business encounters.

TGO has evolved to become the foundation of EFI’s Automated Intelligent Workflow, bringing the printing industry to new levels of efficiency and savings. Recognizing the value of the Theory of Global Optimization, EFI continues to invest significant resources into its product suite—Digital StoreFront®, its MIS/ERP solutions, PrintFlow, Fiery®, VUTEk® and Jetrion®—so that they operate according to TGO principles.

It is not accidental that Udi Arieli developed the Theory of Global Optimization as a solution to the problems of the printing industry, one of the most complex and largest custom manufacturing sectors of the economy. The great value of Theory of Global Optimization is that it provides a framework for printing company executives to make their way out of the analog world of landline phone call status updates and into the digital world of client dashboard apps, automated text communications and email tracking information. By utilizing TGO, the printing firm of today can begin the practical transition of becoming the integrated media supplier of tomorrow.

By employing sophisticated digital operations management tools, print media suppliers can interact with the young advertising and marketing clients—that Webb and Romano write about—in a manner that fits their lifestyle and habits, i.e. more like their digital media suppliers. If print is going to survive in the digital age, it has to become easier to order, easier to produce, easier to track and easier to cost justify. Now that is the new start that the marketplace demands.