Sunday, July 2nd, 1978
August 3, 2015 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Farewell - ETAOIN SHRDLU: a short film documenting the production of the last edition of the New York Times to use hot metal typesetting. [via]
posted by cosmic.osmo (13 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Great find. That was my grampa's work, right there typesetting on these machines at the NY Times. I think he had retired by the time this film was made, but I'm going to watch this again and again. Thanks!
posted by twsf at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2015

A friend of mine has a letterpress in his basement as a hobby. I helped him move the thing, and you gain a new appreciation for fonts and leading when you carry boxes of them up and down flights of stairs.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:49 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow. Thanks for posting this.
posted by adamrice at 11:09 AM on August 3, 2015

The "Dawn of the Computer Age" stuff at the end is great history as well.
posted by sudasana at 12:28 PM on August 3, 2015

The "Dawn of the Computer Age" stuff at the end is great history as well.

Yeah, that's how I actually found the video. I really liked that shot at the end (at 22:50) where they showed all the old Linotype operators working away at computer terminals.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2015

What text editor are they using?
posted by oceanjesse at 4:21 PM on August 3, 2015

The amazing thing is the futuristic technology that sent hot metal to the scrap heap is unrecognizably archaic to modern day designers. I teach college-level graphic design, and paste-up using phototypesetting is what ancient history looks like. This video will be in one of my classes fall semester.
posted by Mcable at 6:51 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Amazing. Thanks for sharing this.
posted by bitterpants at 7:42 PM on August 3, 2015

Like the steam train, hot lead is not entirely dead but just barely. Arion Press in San Francisco is still pumping out slugs on machines that were brought to the city for the Pan Pacific exhibition and are now a century old. Its mostly quiet between runs (and probably during them as well, at least compared to the Times) but you can take tours and look at the old beasts and row upon row of the last type cast (and for sale!) by dozens of foundries and watch people sewing books together like time stopped last century.

The best part of the visit is the smells of oil and ink and ancient machinery. It is a fantastic smell.

Amazingly only ten bucks and you get a slug souvenir.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:07 PM on August 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I started setting computer phototype two years after this film ends. In the back of the building, where they kept the cars, was a dust covered linotype. I was out there once with a couple of the old guys, i.e. guys who could read the client's copy, look at their drawing, tell you where every line would fall in one or another font size, and if the computer said it wouldn't fit, it was always wrong and they were always right. One of them said, in a quiet and wistful voice to nobody in particular, "I knew every piece in that machine."
posted by carping demon at 11:22 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's a testament to how advanced the linotype was in it's time that it took us a hundred years to improve on it.

So much automation being introduced there yet they still had that room of typesetters typing in stories, presumably fresh from writers' typewriters. Every one of those guys must have realized a few minor advances in the software and network would make them obsolete. The font toolbar used to be a whole room of people with jobs. On the other hand I don't need to hire a whole room of guys every time I want to write something.
posted by Locobot at 12:24 AM on August 4, 2015

What a great find! Thanks for sharing this.
posted by janell at 9:14 PM on August 4, 2015

I finally got around to watching this - wonderful! Thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:31 PM on August 9, 2015

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