Feeds

How I invented Desktop Publishing

Well, OK. Me, and a thousand others

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Today's Desktop Publishing systems like the Macintosh with PostScript are taken for granted, but it wasn't so long ago that these technologies were impossible.

Early "homebrew" computer hackers recognized the demand for computer publishing and paved the way for the professional systems we use today. Some of those inventions were just done for the sheer fun of a cool application, without thought to any commercial use. I was one of those hackers, and I may have invented DTP - and given it away for free - without realizing what I had done.

Before DTP, typesetting was terribly laborious. You would type your text on a typewriter with written "type specs." The typesetter would encode your specifications of typeface, size, and the width of the text column into SGML, and punch that into paper tape. The tape was fed into an optical typesetter that wrote the type on photo paper. That phototype page may or may not be what you wanted, it might need revisions, which could take another whole day. I recall only rarely seeing type being right the first time.

In 1980, I worked at a tiny computer store in Dubuque, Iowa. Some of my clients were textbook publishers with intensive typesetting demands. They wanted a way to ditch their Teletype ASR-33 punch tape machines. I converted them to CP/M machines with Wordstar, feeding the stored markup via serial port to phototypesetters. They thought this was revolutionary; they loved the improvement.

But I didn't love it. Wordstar nagged at me with its difficult formatting. Professional typesetters never used its formatting, merely used it as a text editor, storing their text and markup on disk instead of paper tape. For word processing, it was almost impossible to do conventional typesetting tricks like printing a page with text in two columns. What you saw was not even close to what you got.

I figured I could do better. In our computer store, we always had a well-equipped Apple II demo workstation. My favorite toy was the IDS Paper Tiger dot matrix printer. It was expensive, at about $1500, and noisy, but it could print in full color… all six colors that the Apple II high resolution graphics system could display.

The Paper Tiger colour dot matrix

But nothing excited me like the Apple Graphics Tablet. The software was produced by rock music producer Todd Rundgren, for use in his music video studio, and licensed to Apple.

In Utopia, you could draw with the stylus, or type characters right on the screen, and then print to the Paper Tiger. The graphics were crude but colorful, and just barely good enough. The software was designed more for engineers and draftsmen, but since it was created by video artists, it was very flexible.

One day I had an inspiration. We sold Beagle Brothers screen fonts. They were known as "BaggieWare" since they came on floppy disks in cheap plastic bags. The Graphics Tablet software could load the fonts and type them on screen.

This was the final element, Desktop Publishing was born.

Security for virtualized datacentres

Next page: The demo

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.