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PI's 45th ANNIVERSARY -- From Art To Science

June 2003

To those outside the graphic arts, the end product of printing probably hasn't seemed to change all that much since the days of Gutenberg. It's still text and images reproduced on paper.

The industry generally hasn't been thought of as a hotbed of innovation, at least not until lately. From the mid 1980s and carrying into the '90s, digital technology was said to be revolutionizing printing. But as Printing Impressions magazine marks its 45th year of tracking the industry, a look back over the decades shows an industry in a constant state of change. Some big, some small.

It also reveals a few surprises. Not all the developments were as new or revolutionary as one might think. As the saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."


The 10th anniversary issue noted the release of a GAMIS (Graphic Arts Marketing Information Service) study on the future of the printing market. "As the study sees it, the major challenges to printing as we know it today will come from the combination of such technological development areas as: computers, copying and duplicating, micro-imaging and electronic transmission.

"The new competing technologies will not eliminate printing or even necessarily stunt its future growth. Rather, they will cause present methods to be modified and will likely change the emphasis on what is printed and how."

The year also brought the launch of PRINT 68, billed as the first truly international printing trade show held in the United States. Some 50,000 attendees visited the exposition, but that fell far short of the preshow projections of 100,000 attendees and more than 500 exhibitors. Show promotions proclaimed, "The graphic arts industry is going through a period of astonishing inventiveness." Computer typesetting and electronic press controls were among the specific developments cited.

In commenting on the event, W.P. Jaspert identified a trend of manufacturers touting the "Total Concept" in manufacturing and supply for the graphic arts industry with in-line production on web offset presses. He was struck by the "sheer number and range of offset presses on display," while there were few letterpress machines to be seen.

In his "Cold Type Production" column, Dorsey Biggs marveled at the razzle-dazzle on display at PRINT 68. "It's a dizzying thing to contemplate. . . $20,000 for the Photon 713-5 Textmaster. A prototype of the Compugraphic 7200 keyboard-operated display unit was shown. . . It sets type from 14 to 72 point and sells for $4,950."

In what may come as a surprise to many, the 10th anniversary issue also carried a story on the use of facsimile equipment by Billboard Publications to speed communications between its offices in New York City and the printing plant in Cincinnati, some 800 miles away. The system was said to be used to send proofs, dummies and drawings in minutes.

Companies Mentioned:


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