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Inside Output: A History of Disruptive Tech

(April 2017) posted on Fri Apr 07, 2017

A reflection on past decades shows how far the industry has come.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Craig Miller

“This will change everything.” How many times have we heard it? New technologies are always highly touted and anticipated. Some live up to the hype; some don’t.

There’s an advantage of being an “old guy” with approximately 38 years of experience playing with digital print technology. I have personally experienced both the winners and the flops. Some were a waste of my company, Pictographics’, time and money, and some truly changed everything. If someone was smart – and probably in my case, lucky – enough to become an early adopter, he or she was gifted with a significant advantage.

What I’ll share with you are some of those historical developments that changed the face of our industry and our company. This is at once both technical and personal, and I would love to hear from you how disruptive technology in our industry has affected your companies and lives.

The Benefits of Geekdom
I have come by my “tech geek” status honestly. I began writing computer programs in 1965. I learned Fortran to make an IBM S/360 do my bidding. I bought my first personal computer in 1979 and taught myself to program in Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC).

I believe the first really big technological breakthrough that changed everything and paved the way for digital printing was the 1985 introduction of PostScript. PostScript came installed on the $6995, 300-dpi Apple laser printer called the LaserWriter. This was part of a cluster of technological advancements that ushered in the desktop publishing revolution and set the stage for our industry. Platforms like Aldus PageMaker (later acquired by Adobe) launched simultaneously, and soon we had QuarkXPress, Illustrator, Photoshop, Freehand, and others. The LaserWriter also included the AppleTalk network, allowing the printer to be shared by multiple Macintoshes.

By 1988, we had multiple Macs with every available design program, a LaserWriter and Apple Scanner, and an AppleTalk network in our home. This amalgam of disruptive technologies allowed us to capture a number of lucrative contracts and set the stage for our leap into large-format color printing in 1993.