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Redefining Visionaries As Heroes --Waldman

February 2003

My company was an early Scitex customer and that's how I eventually met Efi. It all came about because I insisted that there was a problem with the system architecture. Unlike today's inexpensive computers armed with a $700 copy of Adobe Photoshop, a Scitex terminal was about $500,000, in addition to all the other stuff that brought the cost of a total system into the millions of dollars.

My argument back then was that the terminal was cost-effective to do what we referred to as magic (image manipulation and cloning) because of the high premium you could charge customers for this unique service (at that time).

Efi Makes the Call

However, page assembly was another matter and most Scitex users, like my firm, still found it was more cost-effective to resort to conventional offset stripping. I thought that it would be a better idea to have a second, much cheaper, terminal dedicated to page assembly. One Saturday I got a call at home from a man with an Israeli accent trying to make himself understood above the noise of an airport in London. The man simply said, "Harry, this is Efi. We now have the Assembler."

This was my first encounter with Efi Arazi, but not the last, as we became the beta site for the Assembler, which was a $100,000 terminal dedicated to page assembly and the production of one-piece negatives. The highlight of my experiences with Efi was a fascinating dinner in his Tel Aviv apartment where he outlined his vision of the future.

Efi is a hero of mine because Scitex was at the forefront of major change in our industry. I haven't seen him in many years and I know he went on to start other companies like EFI (Electronics for Imaging), but I have always felt that he has never been fully recognized by our industry for his contributions.

As I write this in December 2002, exactly 20 years ago John Warnock and Chuck Geschke started Adobe Systems. In 1983, Adobe introduced PostScript—and the world of desktop publishing was now possible. The many contributions Adobe has and continues to make is staggering. But PostScript alone is an achievement that—in my judgment—may be second only to Gutenberg's.

Important Inventions

Sound like an outlandish statement? Not if you think about it. The principal element of Gutenberg's innovation was his system of moveable type that enabled the key element of printing, typography, to become a standardized manufacturing reality. The printer could now efficiently set type to place in his printing press.

In effect, PostScript did the same for computer-generated typography. The device-independent mathematical outlines enabling type to easily be produced sharply at any size was a revolution over device-dependent bitmapped type. But PostScript did so much more to make desktop publishing happen; now a single software language could replace the need for a myriad of drivers and it could put text and graphics on the same page at the same time.

But I need not go on because you can read all about it in Pamela Pfiffner's book, Inside the Publishing Revolution-The Adobe Story. For those as old as me, it is filled with nostalgia and a refresher on where it all began. For those too young to know, this book will give you a sense of history and a better appreciation for the innovation and vision that got us here.

I don't know John Warnock and Chuck Geschke personally, but their vision and innovation ranks them high on my hero list. Of course, as I explained in the beginning, there is a far loftier category of heroes. But, as we move down from the pedestal that those who risk their lives for others stand upon, we may want to look at the visionaries as heroes and read their stories. Besides a fascinating trip into a highly imaginative world, just think about what you could learn and how your thinking might become more innovative to face a rapidly changing world.

—Harry Waldman

About the Author

Harry Waldman is a consultant and has been in the printing industry for 30 years. As a former company owner, he was well-known for implementing cutting-edge technologies. Waldman is also an author. His book, Computer Color Graphics, published by GATF Press, enables readers to learn today's graphic software quickly by teaching the essential concepts. He can be reached by e-mail at harry@harrywaldman.com.
 

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