More Print Than Not
Here it is, with 2007 almost upon us, and we’re still feeling the effects of the desktop publishing revolution. The Internet tends to get the headlines, but all those Web pages would be pretty dull without the market breakthroughs of the desktop publishing revolution. Those breakthroughs stand on the shoulders of too many computer technology developments to count, but the all seemed to coalesce from 1984 to 1986.
Desktop publishing is more than software, it’s a series of connected events that make Moore’s Law so interesting. It’s the incredible decreases in prices and sharp increases in capabilities of equipment that have made it so. A $1,000 scanner is almost considered “high-end” in today’s digital photography world, and has features and capabilities when combined with modern software that are far more capable than a $200,000 scanner of 1980. The range of equipment has certainly expanded. A 5-megapixel camera can often be found for less than $200 A 1 megapixel camera in the 1980s was $25,000 and was virtually limited to industrial applications.
These changes are small compared to the destruction of barriers to the costs and time involved in content creation that they caused. Designers just used to design. They’d need a prepress practitioner to translate their work into print, and the costs involved seeded the market conditions that would make desktop publishing explode, and be taken for granted today. Of course, it needed an enabling platform, and that turned out to be the Mac, introduced in 1984 to great fanfare. I remember sitting in on an interview with a big New York ad agency in 1990 that saved $100,000 in typesetting costs their first year after adopting desktop publishing.
There were other transitional aspects that proved interesting. Designers who used desktop publishing found that their clients were getting confused. Desktop publishing output of job mock-ups created to test ideas or layouts looked like they were almost final.