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The Apple Macintosh, which transformed print, taking it into the modern era, and wiping out large sections of the industry in the process, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.

Changed print forever: Apple Macintosh launched in 1984
Phoyo courtesy Wikicommons Bernard Gotfryd
Changed print forever: Apple Macintosh launched in 1984 Photo courtesy Wikicommons Bernard Gotfryd

Launched in 1984, it was the first ever computer with a GUI, graphical user interface, which at a stroke transferred computer usage from boffins and geeks into the hands of designers and printers, as code on the screen was replaced with icons, buttons, menus, and wysiwig – what you see is what you get, in other words the page displayed on the screen exactly as it would be seen in print.

Initially derided by the printing industry, the Mac as it was quickly known, had within a decade wiped out the entire typesetting industry, and by the end of the century almost all pre-press trade houses as well, as its rapid implementation enabled the introduction of digital proofing on wide format printers, and laser computer platesetting (CTP), technology, which led to the rapid introduction of long, eight and ten-colour perfecting presses. Taken together, the new printing process from Mac to digital proof to CTP to perfecting print slashed costs and lead times to a small fraction of their previous levels. Jobs, and skill levels to produce print, were also slashed.

Although the Mac was launched in 1984, it wasn’t until a year later that its full potential became clear, to those that were taking notice, when the Apple Desktop Publishing System (DTP) for the Mac was released. The Apple DTP comprised the Mac, with Aldus PageMaker layout software, Adobe PostScript software to enable the Mac to communicate with printers, the Apple LaserWriter printer, which used Canon technology with an Adobe RIP, and Linotype outline fonts.

Two years after that, Apple released the Mac II, which came with a 13 inch screen, it was 50 per cent bigger than the original 9 inch version, and at that point its implementation in print was set. By then the Mac’s clunky typesetting had been cleaned up, and its computer power turbocharged. At a time when pre-press houses were paying a million dollars or more for the page make-up systems from the big four of Crosfield, Hell, Scitex and Screen, all of a sudden you could have a Mac that would do the same thing, but for $10,000.

Few technologies in the 550 year history of print can claim to actually be revolutionary, but along with Gutenberg’s press which kickstarted the whole industry in 1452, and Ottmar Mergenthaler's Linotype hot metal typesetting machine launched in 1884, the Apple Mac stands at the top.

Profound invention for print industry: Apple Macintosh
Pic courtesy Chi Ho Chan, WikiCommons
Profound invention for print industry: Apple Macintosh
Photo courtesy Chi Ho Chan, WikiCommons


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