Editorial: Waxing Philosophical

I like to joke that I took over as editor of Quick Printing on Pearl Harbor Day in 1988. That’s actually close to the truth—give or take a week or so. I was thinking about that December anniversary when I noticed Karen doing magic page maneuvers in InDesign for our December issue. Back when I started, pages were put together much differently.

In 1988, we didn’t have such luxuries as InDesign or PageMaker or Acrobat. We had word processing programs we used to create files on floppy discs that we sent to a type house in New York for output. When the galleys came back, we waxed them, sliced the copy by hand, and pasted it on layout sheets. Usually that worked out fine, but sometimes it didn’t. My first run-in with John Stewart came when I pasted up his column with several paragraphs out of order. We didn’t catch it, and it went to press that way.

Those were the days of border tape and corners, overset type used for letter-by-letter corrections, and the smell of overheated wax when we left the waxer on all night. I actually typed the copy for the Update (better known then as the yellow pages) on an IBM Selectric typewriter. The rationale was that typewriter type had a feeling of immediacy—of last minute news pounded out at deadline. Stop the presses!

As we wander from one decade to the next, it sometimes is hard to remember the details of what went before. Back in 1988, you could buy Lotus 1,2,3 software for $299 and a Logitech mouse for $89.99. Gas was 99-cents a gallon and a first class stamp cost 24-cents. Two new drugs were in the news—Prozac and crack. Among the popular musicians in 1988 were Enya, Erasure, Bros, and Kylie Minogue, whoever they might have been.

I really don’t remember much about those things. I remember stuff like hoping my beat-up old Chevette with the semi-permanent “Check Engine” light would keep running until I got my first paycheck. I remember that first Christmas, sitting on a Florida harbor-side dock with two pelicans and wishing for snow. I remember wondering exactly how long this gig would last. As it turns out, it’s lasted this long. So far, so good.

Quick Printing has come light years since I started. We’re doing things they didn’t even have words for back then—podcasts, webinars (I wish they’d call them something else), e-Newsletters, digital editions, blogs, and tweets, and e-Blasts…Oh my!

Just as the printing industry we serve, we’ve have had to come to terms with the fact that today it’s about much more than just ink on paper. It’s about disseminating content and using new tools. But I still remember how the waxer smelled when we left it on all night.