Nov 202018
 

While browsing Reddit last night, I came across Farewell etaoin shrdlu, a 30 minute documentary showing the last day the New York Times used hot metal typesetting to print their paper, which was July 2, 1978.

I’ve long been fascinated by Linotype machines, which cast molded lead “slugs” for a line of type. They’re extremely mechanical and really fun to watch. There are many videos to be found on YouTube detailing how they work. This particular documentary doesn’t go into great detail, but gives the basics. It also shows the entire process – how text goes from the Linotype machine all the way to a printing press.

At the end of the video they show the new computerized process that’s replacing hot metal type. This is equally fascinating. And it’s by no means fully computerized – these were the days where “cut” and “paste” involved knives and glue…

So if you’re finding yourself with some time to kill (and with it being Thanksgiving week in the US, there’s bound to be a lot of time to be killed) give this a watch. It makes me thankful to live and work in the era of computing that I do. Room-sized computers must have been incredibly impressive. Same goes for the “disk packs that can hold 8 million words each!” as mentioned in the video, but I’m quite happy to be where we are now. And I can only imagine that at the tail end of my career, the systems I’m working on now will seem just as ancient.

 

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