Sunday, May 29, 2011

The linotype machine

Invented in 1886, by 1954 there were 100,000 linotype machines in operation. Their name supplies their function: they can take a "line of type" and transfer it from a keyboard to the page. Or more to the point, a lot of pages, once you throw in a little hot metal (to make the type) and figure out how to fold the resulting pieces of paper. Apparently the life of a typesetter was a very romantic one, as these craftsmen roamed from town to town, living the good life, and apparently tippling whenever the opportunity presented itself. But let's face it. They were at the front lines of information technology. John Hendel captures their world at The Atlantic:

"Linotype machines powered newspapers, factories, a whole industry that was as American as any and existed for a century, at least until the tides of technology wiped it out as an occupation in the 1960s and 1970s -- and now, Linotype is nearly extinguished from American memory. Yet Thomas Edison, it's said, called the machine the Eighth Wonder of the World (no faint praise from the man who invented the light bulb)... Before its invention and implementation, no newspaper could easily run longer than a few brief pages, and this new way of producing text marked a radical evolution in the history of printing and typography. Linotype dominated for nearly a hundred years."

Read Celebrating Linotype, 125 Years Since Its Debut

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