The Days of Typography, 1980s Style

During the 1980s, I was a typographer. In the “old days”, type was “set” before it could be printed. Prior to the 1970s, this was done manually with actual blocks of lead letter forms. In my time, this involved using a computer to input copy and format font, size, and position of letters as they were to appear when printed. Today, this is accomplished by anybody using a computer. However, it remains an art form because not many truly understand how to craft their type for optimum presentation.

When I worked for a typography company named Intertype, our computer screens were much different from you see today. We would input several lines of code, then the copy. The code told the computer how and precisely where the type should be. When we set pages for math book publishers, the code could be very complex. We would program macro keys for redundant keystrokes, minimizing mistakes.

Working with some of the best in the business, Joel and Debbie Nuttall, I learned to be precise, accurate and creative. Our clients included graphic artists of the highest caliber, worldwide textbook publishers, print shops and marketing/advertising companies. These people demanded the highest quality, and we provided it.

Occasionally, we’d have some slow time. One day as I came into work, I looked at the façade of our building and decided to duplicate it electronically. Since it basically involved straight lines, I figured it was possible. It was surely difficult! Our company logo, pictured in the window, actually a separate file, had to be nested into the parent and adjusted for position. The window blinds were individual lines, set at staggered intervals with each being just a tiny fraction thinner than the one above.

Looking at it now, you may not grasp its complexity. This took about three hours to input, edit and fine tune (sorry Nuttalls!). Imagine drawing something with just code to guide you; no “WYSIWYG” (What You See is What You Get) technology to depend on. Math and code on a monochrome screen, that’s all we had.

So with that said, I give you my piece of early electronic art.



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