There are two books I remember reading during the summer of 1980. One was Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. The other described how the development of photo-lithography severely affected the printing industry in 19th Century America. Within a decade of it’s appearance, tens of thousands of skilled jobs in America were eliminated by this new technology.
A few years after reading that book (whose name I no longer remember – I passed it on as a gift to David O. Johnson whom I worked for at Princeton Polychrome Press), one of the first set of desktop published films appeared on my light table. Impossible to register, we stood there laughing at how amateurish they were. Not sure if we did the best we could with them, or sent them back to the agency that supplied them.
Jumping forward a decade and a half, not only were journeymen 4/C strippers antiquated, but as a skilled desktop publishing technician my job was being automated once again, this time to the point were most of my time was spent making sure that the correct set of digital files were in the proper pipeline. Realizing that any high-school graduate could do the same work I was doing, I found myself haunted by the photo-lithography revolution / displacement of the 19th century and quickly realized it was time to find a different profession.
Because transitioning to the web seemed like the quickest course, I began teaching myself how to build web pages. Before telling this part of the story, a few words need to be said about the transition between the light table and desktop publishing.
In the winter of 1991 my wife and I and our two sons moved from Trenton, New Jersey to eastern New York State. Having spent a decade as a journeyman 4/C stripper, I found myself a cog in a large machine, grinding out as much work as possible on 12 hour shifts. Shortly before I was hired, my new employer had dipped their toes in desktop publishing, establishing a Macintosh / Scitex based department. With everyone in my department banging on the door to move into the digital department, I took a more subtle approach, telling the department head that I also would like to move into digital, but was willing to wait for an opening and would not mention my desire to do so again. The soft approach must have worked because I was in the next transfer group.
Having spent my entire life in the graphic arts, between photography, typography, platemaking and stripping, I had ZERO experience with computers. At least I had mastered how to login and logout of a terminal before going to Boston for two weeks of Scitex training. While I kinda-sorta learned the basics of color correction in Boston, I had no idea what a file was and how it could be found. The high point of my ignorance was when a supervisor walked up one day and said “Dave, do you know DOS?” and I responded truthfully, “No, I never heard of him.” The supervisor walked away shaking his head. It was a couple of years before I understood that conversation.
Returning to the print to web transition narrative, the late Netscape Navigator had a built in html editor called Composer which I used to build a couple of rudimentary sites. The progressions beyond that included using BBEdit to code by hand; Dreamweaver; ColdFusion Studio for database driven sites; migration to php for creating custom cms systems; to where I find myself today, utilizing Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal and NationBuilder.
Long gone is that day I stood in front of my light table at Princeton Polychrome Press, thinking I love what I do and I can see myself doing this until the day I retire.
The clients listed to the right are a combination of sites I've designed & maintain; designed by me & the client maintains; clients with existing sites I do maintenance for, as well as past clients.