Last week’s New York Times obit Carl Schlesinger, 88, Dies; Helped Usher Our Hot Type told about the passing of a former Times typesetter who helped make an award-winning film about the night in 1978 when the paper was produced with hot-metal type for the last time. Reading it prompted Andrew Porter to muse about the rapid technological advances he experienced in his own career:
When I started in publishing, everything was done in hot type. Eventually, the switch was made to cold type. How ironic that when I was working at Cahners Publishing in the late 1960s, we used a cold-type company that workers told me had “strange paintings” on the walls. They were working in the former office of Galaxy Magazine, whose owner had become a printing broker. Everything I learned about printing — quoins, Linotype, Monotype, sheet-fed printing presses, color separations, press impositions, so much more — gradually became obsolete. When I started, it took a tractor-trailer to hold the type and printing plates used in a magazine issue. By the end of the 20th century, an armful of negatives would do the job. And now, even negatives are obsolete.
My dad went through that evolution – he worked in the composing room at the Sault Daily Star and went from hot type and Linotype machines, though cold type, and finally computerized typesetting.
In the early 1990s I was publishing a fanzine, Torus, using a PC and Ventura Publisher. He was amazed that that was possible and didn’t required a big minicomputer.
“Quoin” is still a useful word… if you play Scrabble.