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An Old Printer Looks Back--Waldman

January 2005
Another new year and, at my age, I feel the need to look back and reflect on an event and some people that shaped my business life and the printing industry.

In retrospect, I would have to say that the single most important event in the printing industry during my business career occurred more than 20 years ago. Often overlooked, the introduction of the Apple Macintosh personal computer and the Apple LaserWriter, along with Adobe PostScript and Aldus (later Adobe) PageMaker software, in my judgment, began the march to what was to become a revolutionary change in printing and publishing.

Actually, the Apple Macintosh—sans PostScript, LaserWriter and PageMaker—was introduced a year earlier in one of the most famous and startling commercials of all time. I remember it well.

Aired during the 1984 Super Bowl, the commercial produced more of a sensation (positive not negative) than the half-time show at last year's Super Bowl. And for good reason. Anyone who saw it can probably still vividly recall the eerie sci-fi setting with drone-like people obediently listening to their leader on a huge TV.

Suddenly a sleek-looking blonde women, chased by storm troopers, runs in and throws a sledge hammer through the screen. The commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, dramatically presented the Mac as the futuristic freedom-to-create tool as opposed to the blue-suited, drone-like world of the IBM PC.

Although there were other computer commercials aired during that 1984 Super Bowl (Alan Alda spoke for Atari computers), it was the Mac that was a watershed event. Creative types fell in love with a piece of hardware, beginning a romance that changed our industry. But in reality, as sexy as the Mac appeared, it wasn't a viable tool—at least not just yet.

A year later the Mac equipped with the first desktop publishing program, Aldus PageMaker, together with the Apple LaserWriter, set the forces in motion. And the key was the first usage of Adobe PostScript, which made it all possible.

Gridiron Memories

While I clearly remember the Super Bowl commercial and the subsequent introduction of the LaserWriter, Adobe PostScript and PageMaker, I can't say that I realized the true impact at that time. Like most printers, I probably was preoccupied trying to process a room full of mechanicals through a room full of offset strippers to produce a room full of stripped flats. Thus, this historic January 1984 introduction—which was the beginning of the end for mechanicals, stripped flats and strippers—was barely noticed by most printers.

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