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In Memory of John F Crosfield, Electronic Prepress Pioneer

April 2, 2012
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As one of the band of inspired entrepreneurs who ushered the printing industry into the age of electronics after the Second World War, John Crosfield, a Cambridge educated engineer, founded his own company in 1947. He initially designed and manufactured printing press automatic control equipment to ensure that the four printing colors registered accurately on top of one another. This improved print quality and greatly reduced material waste. The revolutionary Autotron, as it was known, was rapidly adopted by printers around the world.
 
Following the success of the Autotron and its derivatives, the company played a leading role in the introduction of color scanning, phototypesetting and later the automated composition of pages incorporating pictures and text. As Chief Executive of Crosfield Electronics Ltd., John spearheaded the development of the first color scanner, the Scanatron, launched  in 1959. This machine analyzed original color pictures into their four printing colors and exposed a single color image onto glass photographic plates for the later production of the four color printing plates. With the arrival of polyester based photographic film a new and improved version was produced, the Diascan.
 
The company went on, in 1969, to introduce the world’s first enlarging and reducing drum scanner, the Magnascan 450. This had the ability to make fully color adjusted and corrected screened, or continues tone color separations, to a required size, in a single step. These early scanners used analogue and valve electronics. In 1975, Crosfield Electronics launched the Magnascan 550. This was the world’s first digital scanner controlled by computer with all the separation and correction process performed in the computer followed closely by the first electronic page composition system.
 
The prosperity achieved with those products for the printing and packaging industries enabled the company’s engineering talents to be applied to the development of machines for automatic document handling. A spin-off company was formed, Crosfield Business Machines Ltd. and produced and sold banknote inspection, counting and sorting machines. These were sold to many of the state printing works around the world, including the Bank of England.
 
These innovative products generated considerable business success for Crosfield Electronics. As a consequence John Crosfield and his Company’s efforts were recognized by several Queens Awards for both Exports and Technology, totaling four in all.
 
John Crosfield was born with printer’s ink in his blood. His father, Bertram Crosfield, was at one time Managing Director of The Star and the New Chronicle newspapers. From his Crosfield and Cadbury ancestors John inherited their fervent principles: diligence, assiduousness, integrity and enthusiasm. Those families cared about people and their welfare as demonstrated by the Bourneville village built by his maternal grandfather, George Cadbury, for his employees. This was a social revolution in its day and that ethos kindled a family spirit in his company that is still enjoyed by the ex-employees today.
 
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