If I remember correctly, everybody’s workflow sucked…

by admin on May 15, 2009

At first I was taken aback by Laurens' insistence that the slagging name for Apogee was cooked up by a Creo or Brisque marketing manager. I don't remember who mentioned the name to me, but definitely it could have been a marketing manager. Those rascally roguish marketing managers are always up to no good, just like little naughty leprechauns, I tell you.

Then, I became worried. What if I had offended some faithful readers of my blog? I mean gees, if I lost Laurens, that's like 20% of my readership right there.  Anyhow, I am sorry that I offended anybody from AGFA. Cross my fingers, nobody digs too deep into the old-computer-to-plate archives and finds out what I used to post about the Scitex guys. You know, before we merged. After that, we became best buddies.

And I wanted to leave it at that except hey wait a minute, that would have left an impression that everything was fine way back in the mid to late 1990s. But that impression would be wrong. Not that I'm saying Apogee sucked back then. I'm saying that everybody's workflow sucked back then: Brisque, Apogee, Prinergy, Artpro, and even you too, Rampage.  I mean, we were lucky that some days  our  customers didn't jump on us, take us out to the dumpster and administer some severe beatings.

I know this because I was there. I was the sharp end of the pointy stick, asbestos boy (No, I didn't pick the name, it was given to me by a developer with a warped sense of humour). Sure, I was attached to the development team but I didn't write code, I was the guy who was sent out to the customers site during beta and early production to take the heat (and I wasn't the only one, let me tell you. I still have memories of Stan running around trying to find somebody to send to a Florida hot site so he wouldn't have to go... ...again... ... for two weeks. And Stan was the project manager of Prinergy at the time.)

Best (worst) customer story ever: Down in Houston with Kevin Ishiguro, and a customer has a Prinergy system that is unfortunately hooked to an archiver system running Windows 4.0 that blue screened on random occasions and took down the whole damn system. We get called into one hour meeting and the f-bombs get dropped, majestically and with great emphasis. I can attest that nobody can drop f-bombs like a Texan. They can do it in an almost melodic fashion and with great stamina.

Now you may ask why? Why? Why do you bring this up? Why are you harping on the early messy history of prepress workflow? And who cares?

Well somebody has to remember that if you cut and paste type in Quark, then colored it white, the overprint setting would still be turned on so the type would literally be tagged transparent, and for sure million of pages of paper were tossed in the dumpster because of that glitch, until everybody put a flag in their RIP. Does anybody remember Postscript generated by the team that put out the Economist magazine? It called for a random variable to be declared in the RIP, and if the variable wasn't there, then it aborted.Our best guess of the development team was that it was put there just ensure job security for a programmer.

Let's talk about trapping. How about the patent wars over trapping algorithms, where vendors would try to cripple other vendor's workflow by tying them up in court over patent disputes? What about the earthquake caused by the introduction of the Epson 9000? Goodbye fat profit margins from proofing consumables. Goodbye Iris, 3M and Dupont.

So  I post these reminiscences because of  these thoughts that run through my head: Someday in the future, maybe a hundred years from now, historians may look back at the 1990s and say there! That's when the world went digital.  That was a dislocation point, where things never were quite the same again. So in order for the history to be written, for all the pieces to be put together and become coherent, these historians will need to read the diaries of those who were there. Diaries not written makes for history not recorded.

And in the little corner of the world called prepress, when it all went digital everything changed, from a stripper-craftsman carefully taping together pieces of film to a CTP VLF pounding out hundreds of plates a day containing thousands of pages. From craft to factory in less than a decade. How many decades did it take for the Industrial Revolution to underfold, how many bloody riots did it entail?

We went through our revolution in a twinkling of the eye, messy and stressful and oh did we ever suck for awhile until all the dragons were slain. But it was fun while it lasted.

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