Wednesday, May 25, 2011

museum of printing

As part of the content development process for New England Day Trips At Hand, I visited The Museum of Printing in North Andover on Friday.

The Museum of Printing
The museum tells the story of producing printed documents starting with hand-set individual foundry type and ranging through mechanized hot-metal typesetting, offset printing, and computerized photo typesetters, where Massachusetts high-tech companies played a dominant role. The Merrimack Valley was actually a hotbed of innovation in computer typesetting at one point. Who knew?

an early press
There were lots of artifacts of 30+ year old computer technology related to typesetting. I didn't know I'd see one of those old removable disk packs in a museum of printing.  This one holds about 300MB. The micro-SD card in my phone holds more than 6 of these giant things.  I told the guide and the other visitors a story of lugging an RP06 pack the length and depth of The Mill one night when I had standalone time on a marketing machine in the fishbowl, when I was trying to reproduce a bug. Imagine carrying one of these things up and down 5 flights of stairs.
disk drive and removable disk pack
I posted some of these pictures on Facebook and got lots of comments from tech writer colleagues who remembered the print days.  That's when it dawned on me that back then content development was separate from production, kind of like the  division between writing and information architecture in the DITA model -- a schism, so to speak, sort of similar to the schism mentioned in  Sarah O'Keefe's predictions for 2011 back in January.
Interestingly enough, the museum had a copy of QuarkExpress in the old cardboard box with the old Quark logo, but they didn't have FrameMaker or (gasp, shudder) Interleaf. Given that FrameMaker is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, you'd think it would be a museum piece by now.

With the smart phone projected to be the primary means of content delivery real soon now, it will be interesting to see if content development and content delivery become two separate specialties like writing and printing were in the olden days.

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