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m68k's picture
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Joined: 2016 Dec 30
DTP History Reloaded

Hi Folks,

I just finished my current book project on QX4 on 68k/MacOS 8.1.
At first I marvelled at all the bells and whistles that my vintage Mac setup offers and told myself that I could have been a Desktop Publishing god "back in the days". But then I realized that I had been squezing 800-900MB of image data through my Basilisk-II setup - with even my QX4 file being already 130MB in size.
Yes my B2 setup performed remarkly well under that load (mostly going into crawl mode when converting PSD -> TIFF format or performing other CPU intensive tasks).
But heck, in 1998 even a 100MB hard disk would have been considered a luxury ovekill item. How in hell could *anyone* back then have been working on a picture book DTP project near that size electronically?
So am I just fantasizing about the possibility to work DTP miracles back then, because 68k Macs would never have been able to handle the data sizes required for full page 300dpi DTP anyhow?
But I also have a hard time imagining why someone would squeeze all these data handling abilities into QX4 (and PS4, too) if nobody was able to use them.
Windows programs from those days would be hard pressed with file sizes half that big.
So did they have a way to handle big file data back then or not?

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WhosIt.There's picture
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Joined: 2014 Aug 23

When working on big files, they weren't (and still aren't) fully loaded into the computer. Only the bit you're working on is needed so that is what is loaded. As you move around, other bits are loaded in and unneeded bits saved out to temporary files. Other options also include using low-quality images while working, and the they high-quality versions get place in the final product - this also often had to be done anyway since someone else might still be working on the images while you're doing the text (for example). PageMaker and InDesign (I've never used Quark XPress) also have an option for not displaying images at all, just a placeholder, to make working even quicker. InDesign CC 2018 still defaults to displaying low-quality images, but you can choose to use placeholders or high-quality.

For storing the files, networks and servers were and are usually used, rather than storing everything on the one local computer. Plus there were high capacity drives and disks easily available in 1998, especially for companies who needed them to do their work ... the Zip drive, for example, with it's 100MB removable disks (later increased in capacity) was released in 1994. Others include SyQuest drives, Jazz disks, etc.

Although I never worked on files that large way back then, I did do DTP on a Mac Classic (and earlier models) with it's small 9inch black and white display, "measly" 4MB memory, etc. Smile Most of it was in-house printed on the monochrome laser printer, but some was also done for proper colour printing by professional print companies (originally they would have to do the colour tidying up until we got Macs with colour-capable displays). Before we got our own scanner we used to go to a local reseller to use their scanner, and transfer the scans back to the office using standard floppy disks. Smile

m68k's picture
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Joined: 2016 Dec 30

A 300 dpi full page color scan is 40-80 MB in size, so you had to use one Zip disk per picture?

WhosIt.There's picture
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That's why StuffIt was so popular. Zip disks were really only for transferring files and archiving files. You wouldn't use them to hold files during actual production since that would require having multiple disks mounted to keep the links intact.

sstaylor's picture
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Joined: 2016 Aug 26

Well, in 1998 you could buy a G3 desktop or tower with a standard 4 or 6 Gb hard drive. And even better than the 100mb Zip drive, you could buy an Iomega Jaz drive with 1Gb or even 2Gb cartridges by 1998.
But if you go much further back (to say, the Classic) yes, you're one step away from chiseling letters in stone.

m68k's picture
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I couldn't afford a Mac back then (and thus was very ignorant about their abillities).
But on Wintel machines 5-6 GB would have been considered absolutely top of the line in 1998.
I just would love to imagine myself being able to perform the same DTP wonders back in the day, too, rather than having to admit "well, that would all have been quite impossible back then for sheer technical reasons".

WhosIt.There's picture
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Joined: 2014 Aug 23

DTP existed long before 1998 and was well established by then. The Mac was released in 1984, so that's over ten years earlier. PageMaker and the laser printer arrived in 1985, which is when the term "desktop publishing" was first coined and it became popular. The actual process was created by Xerox Parc way back in the 1970s and computers were first being used in newspaper production around the same time.
Lifewire.com: Learn about the history of desktop publishing
Wikipedia.com: Desktop publishing

"Graphic design" of course pre-dates computers by a long way. The term itself was coined in 1922, but people were making posters, newspapers, magazines, books, etc. way way before that.

m68k's picture
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Joined: 2016 Dec 30

DTP in the 1970s? I would not have imagined that.
I need to read up on that - and I can keep dreaming of how I could have choosen Graphic's Designer over becoming a Programmer, if only I could have afforded a fully blown Mac "back then" Wink

WhosIt.There's picture
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Why choose?
I've basically been doing both for years, among everything else that's "computery". Smile I don't call myself an actual "graphic designer" since I have no formal qualification in doing it (and can't stand all the fancy twiddly nonsense they often put into their layouts).

m68k's picture
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Well, its too late for me to switch now. But I dabble in book layouts and DTP for my own hobby projects and dream of what could have happened if I hadn't been born with empty pockets Wink
When I started programming, I was the god of my world and I created entire code universes out of nothing.
But now, I can't even choose the coding platform or operating system - and specially since working as a systens admin my creativity level went right down to zero.
Its like having turned from master of the machine to just being part of the machinery: One little wheel amongst millions. So my DTP'ing is also a way of stress relieve Smile

WhosIt.There's picture
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No switching. What you do is do the programming and create the user manuals as well. Smile