It’s 1989 All Over Again
It was 1989 and I had just graduated college, with a BFA in Communication Design. I stretched college out to 4 and a half years. In that last semester, there was a class I heard about, with computers and something called desktop publishing. It was an elective, and the school had invested in 24 Apple computers. My sister, who was attending the same school, took the class.
After graduation, I went to work for a civil engineer, drafting. I worked there two summers in a row and enjoyed it. I didn’t plan on looking for another job. Until I realized my boss was a bit of a jerk, and I decided I could not work for him anymore.
My sister had gotten a job doing desktop publishing for a friend of my future husband, Fred. She did design work for John, and worked on a Mac. Fred had a commercial print shop, and had just merged with a quick print shop. He needed someone to run the computer that he was going to put in the new shop.
When my sister told me about the job, I remember saying to her, “Well, I will go on the interview, but if I get the job, I am only going to stay there until I figure out what to do. I don’t want to work on a computer all day. I like doing mechanicals.” If you don’t know what a mechanical is, it’s an art board done all by hand, with accetate overlays and tissue paper, all marked up with instructions for a print shop.
Even though I did not take the desktop publishing class, I had done some word processing on the Apple computer my brother had. My parents had also bought us one for Christmas that year. I have no idea what compelled them to purchase something so innovative and new. They were immigrants from Italy, and were very old fashioned. I did not realize how old fashioned they were until my sister, dad and I went to Italy after graduation from community college. We went to my dad’s town, complete with cobble stone streets and limited conveniences. No cable, or VCR. There may have been a TV but if there was, I certainly don’t remember it, because, what would I have watched?
But one thing I noticed was that while the country had not progressed with material possessions, the older people, while still conservative, were much less strict than my parents. It was like my parents were put in this time capsule called America, and pulled out, with all their traditions and ideals completely preserved.
So my parents, stuck in the 1950's, spent $1,000 dollars on a thing called a Macintosh SE Plus, and a dot matrix printer, for their 6 children. This amount was probably three times as much as they had ever spent on one year for Christmas, for all their 6 children combined. Somehow, they knew.
It wasn’t like everyone had one. My oldest brother had purchased his a few months earlier. They could have just made him share. I don’t think my dad ever saw it in action, and I don’t think my mom paid much attention to it, other than perhaps when my brother was on it, while she was trying to get his attention. Something told them, this was going to be important.
Graduation came and as a Communication Design major, my project was to design a resume. I came up with a beautiful design, complete with airbrushed gradation, but with limited type. My professor asked me about the type and I said, “Well, I’m going to print it out on a printer I have at home.” He said, “What?” I said, “I have this printer at home, and I can print it out on that.” Of course, he questioned why I would do that. I said, “What if something has to be changed? What if I change jobs?” He said, “Have it printed again.” I gave up. It was like an Abbot and Costello routine.
I guess he hadn’t heard about the desktop publishing elective at the University.
Then came the day I needed to do my resume, for real. I went to the local print shop. Not my husbands shop, but another one. I had never heard of his print shop.
This was in April, 1989 and about 4 months after my parents purchased the Mac, and my brother a few months before that. So obviously, it’s the latest thing, and everyone must have one by now, right?
I met with the print salesman, Bob. He was a young guy. I would guess in his late 20's or early 30's. So I handed him my airbrushed artwork, and my mechanical board that had my type on it, that would drop out in white down the side of the gradation. He said, “Where is the rest of the type?” I said, “Oh, I’m going to print that out on my printer at home.” He said, “What?” After a few minutes, I again gave up on the Abbot and Costello routine. “Just don’t worry about it,” I said.
The thing about not having formal training in a word processing program is, there are these things called tabs you can use, instead of typing 5 or 6 spaces to indent paragraphs. And the thing about dot matrix printers was, if you didn’t set a tab, it didn’t always line up when you printed.
My brother was helping me print it. I would set it up, and he would print. I would tell him it wasn’t lined up when he printed it, like it was on my screen. I was thinking, why can’t you just print it the way it’s on my screen??? Hadn’t he ever heard of WYSIWYG? What you see is what you get?!
So I would take a space out to make it line up for the printer, and even though it wasn’t lined up on the screen, it would make sense it would line up on the printer. After about 10 sheets, I said, “Okay, this is good,” as I looked at a resume, which looked like the first one we printed. No worries, now I have two, incase I don’t get the job.
Off my resume went, to Fred, at Harmony Press. I got called for an interview. I remember he was a very nice, sweet, quiet man, that seemed to repeat himself a lot. He was really excited about those computers, a program called Freehand, and this new program called Quark XPress. It was superior to PageMaker. As he flipped through my portfolio he would often stop and say, “You see this? This can easily be done on the computer. The computer would line them up, exact.” Flip to the next page. “See this? This is perfect for the computer.”
Well, I got the job.
Fred was always on the cutting edge. Over the years that I worked for him, I would hear him try to explain to designers why they should move to computers. Every time someone brought a mechanical in to the print shop, he would tell them how much easier it would be with the computer.
One time a designer drew a bunch of fine lines, evenly spaced apart, for a logo. He told her how easy it would be on the computer and she said, “I like to be exact.” That cracked him up. He told that story dozens of times over the years.
He would tell the story about when he bought his first Mac, the big question was whether to buy the 20 megabyte model or 40 megabytes. The salesperson told him go with the 20 megabyte, in a lifetime he would never fill it up.
Fred was also the first printer on the east coast with a Linotronic, a device that would image to film or paper, right from the computer. I would hear him tell people his serial number for PageMaker was 543.
It was truly amazing to get into the industry at that time in my life. I was fortunate to have worked for Fred. I marvel at how he could see the technology fit in to his business. Program after program, computer after computer, he got it.
Here it is 2018, and 29 years later, and we are at the beginning of a new revolution. PageMaker isn’t around any more. But Harmony Press is still around, and I can name at least 5 of their competitors that have closed their doors. Harmony Press has always invested in innovation. Why? Simply because the efficiencies you gain, keep you alive.
Fred didn’t see it as a question of ROI (Return On Investment). It was a matter of RIB (Remain In Business). I am anxious to see the last financial institutions standing, in this new revolution of blockchain and digital assets.
Since I started working after college I have invested in the stock market. I took a break while I was on the adventure of my life, with the love of my life. Now he is gone, but left me with a great loss. But he left me with a great deal of wisdom.
I have started investing in cryptocurrencies. In doing that, I have used social media to monitor news. What I have noticed is a negative, uncivilized, and detrimental attitude, that I believe hurts the markets.
So I like to write stories about how people should play nice while this market incubates. Many of the stories incorporate Fred, as he was a great teacher of life.