Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A nightmare introduction to Compugraphic

We recall Larry’s attention to detail, punctuality and confidence. I remember the one night when that all seemed to fall apart.

In September 1972, I was the night editor for the first ‘Prince’ to be published in offset, out of 48 University Place, rather than at the Princeton Herald. The managing board had bought a new system from Compugraphic and we had a brand new minicomputer standing on the third floor, as well as new entry keyboards, printers, wax machines and other gadgets. Hanging from the minicomputer like unfamiliar laundry were various font strips sheathed in plastic packs. There were little copy knives and blue highlighters.

Larry had installed some paste-up tables for paste-up of each page, on which he had previously prepared as many of the ads as possible.

We had two new typesetters (one was Mary Anne, but I can’t recall the other) who had to take each typewritten and edited story and convert them to punchtapes that could be fed into the minicomputer along with the right font strip for copy, then another with another font strip for each headline.

The Compugraphic machine then fed us printed stories that we were supposed to proof, get errors fixed with new punchtapes, etc.

Sounds easy, right? Remember, folks, this was 1972 and we were in the analog age. We were still using typewriters on the first floor.

It was a nightmare. We messed up everything. None of us on the night editing crew had the slightest idea of what to do, since only Larry had been trained at Compugraphic. We did not conduct a dry run before Freshmen Week. It was a disaster. Tape after tape was misfed. Font strips were run incorrectly. We botched the paste machine. Then when a story finally appeared error-free, we pasted it in wrong. But at least Larry knew how to set it correctly, along with some rules. The old man had not lost his sense of craftsmanship.

He also did not lose his cool, although he just put up with us. Nor did he let loose with his “college boy” comments, since he wasn’t familiar with the new routine, either. Somehow, by about 3 a.m., things began to fit together as we started to get the hang of it.

Totally exhausted and prone to make mistakes, we managed to finish an eight-page issue and make all the corrections — at 6:20 a.m. With a letter opener, I gouged a memorial into one of the press room bulletin boards.

Larry didn’t wait around. He drove the paper to the Princeton Packet and the ‘Prince’ went to press. Very, very late.

That whole night, nobody ever thought of giving up, as there was little choice. The paper had to go to press, although I recall at one point Dupraz suggested maybe we cancel the issue. I don’t think that our new chairman, Mark Stevens, thought for a second about that.

Larry never once mentioned that first night again but I know he remembered it. The next night was much smoother!

Bye, Larry.

— David Zielenziger ’74 chairman emeritus


Post a Comment

<< Home