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Myths, lies & desktop publishing.

MYTHS, LIES & Desktop Punishing

After a spicy pizza and a round of Trivial Pursuit with the neighbors, Mr. Johannes Gutenberg, basic bible printer, snuggled under his heaviest eiderdown. He was soon fast asleep...

Appearing before him, dreamlike, glowing in the dark, was the vision of a wizard, dressed in strange garb--suspenders, button-down shirt, Italian suit and power tie. "Who are you and why are your pockets stuffed with apples?" asked Johannes, rubbing his eyes in disbelief. "Joe, my boy, I'm from the marketing department," the wizard declared, "I'm here to show you the future."

Johannes sat up, "Tell me more!" "I will save you money and time with a device so easy to use that you, yourself, can do all your bible printing here on a bench-top!

"Think of it, all the tools at your fingertips! No waiting for others! Change your mind--the results are immediate, the possibilities are endless! You'll have hours of leisure time to take up needlepoint, watercolor or even golf.

"And you'll save big bucks! No more `craft guild' rates for outside suppliers, no more expensive vellum proofs and no more redundant production processes! You'll save enough money for a Beemer (BMW auto)."

"A Beemer!" exclaimed Mr. Gutenberg. "Now, I'm interested."

The wizard, now sitting on the end of the bed, continued, "It's so easy to use. The environment's friendly and programs are simple. It's idiot-proof You're not an idiot, are you?"

"Certainly not!" snapped Johannes.

"Because everything is done on your bench-top, you can eliminate all those extra people like writers, designers, typesetters, paste-up artists and strippers. Who needs all that overhead?

"Well, what do you think, Johannes? Do I sign you up? All I need is a nominal set-up fee and, of course, a deposit on a short training program. Not much really, considering the acclaim you'll receive."

Jumping up and down on the bed, Johannes Gutenberg, bible printer, shouted those immortal words, "You betcha! Where do I sign?"

The dream continued, as dreams do, in and out of logic and time. Soon, however, the dream began to change...

Johannes found himself sitting at a simulated wood-grain work station immersed in work, between monitor, modem, laserwriter and computer. After several months of training, and numerous purchases of software, hardware and gadgets, Johannes was ready to begin actual work. At last he could start paying off his enormous "set-up" debt, a task the wizard said would be "a meatball."

Months swam by in their dreamy way and the dream changed into a nightmare. Johannes couldn't quite tell when, but slowly the sweet syrup of his expectations had been replaced with the bitter taste of his frustration.

Just then the wizard returned, not the smooth-talking, polished man Johannes remembered, but a grizzled, evil vision with a grating laugh, shifting eyes and terrible breath.

"Ah-ha! You believed me, you fool! Now I have you! I actually work for the hardware and software manufacturers. What's more, I get sales commissions from the bank," cackled the wizard.

Johannes reeled in disbelief. "Now I get it!" he shouted, "Saves time, you said. What about those countless hours of training and glitch wrestling?

"And the job is never complete--fiddle, proof, fix... fiddle, proof, fix--on into the night? When will it end? I spend all that saved time reworking the job and shuffling tight schedules.

"What's more, you bum, you told all my clients that I could work faster. Now they want everything sooner! I can't catch up!"

Johannes was raving now. "Save money, you said! These machines keep getting more expensive. I need more programs, fonts, larger screens, more memory. As things get more complex I need more expensive training. Complexity... training... hardware... money... money... money! I'm trapped."

It was not a pleasant sight. Johannes Gutenberg, bible printer, sobbed as he lay there pounding his fists on the floor. "Now we have so-called `second-generation' programs few people understand or operate," he sputtered. "When I cut out the redundant steps and the outside suppliers, I cut the experts out of the loop. Now I'm the designer, typesetter, paste-up artist and lithographer. This inexperience costs time and quality. And new costs seem to be hiding around every corner like thieves. I"m training people to relearn the very jobs I replaced!"

Johannes began to regain his composure, though his eyes were wild and he was perspiring heavily. "Meanwhile, we need new systems to handle this new way of working. The old ways don't work. We have new problems, we need new methods and new shortcuts.

"Thanks to you, Mr. Smarty-pants Marketing Wizard, my clients want their work faster, cheaper and better. They're not happy with church bulletins and club newsletters any longer. They're clamoring for magazines, flyers, posters and annual reports in Multi-PMS and process color. They want cheap, full-color comps. The designers want angled blends without moires, and the production managers want trap fits, and inexpensive, high-quality half-tones."

Johannes pleaded, "I'm being chased by a pack of wild dogs! Get me out of this nightmare!"

"Hmmm," said the wizard, transforming back into his original, smooth-talking self.

"Let me ask you a couple of questions. Can you choose from hundreds of type fonts? Can you place objects with minute precision? Do you have numerous controls over type, graphics and output? Can you create a far more sophisticated product than you imagined possible? All within arm's reach? All by yourself? Well...?" The wizard waited for a reply.

"Yes, now that you mention it," said Johannes proudly. "I can do all of that. And quite well, I might add."

The wizard asked, "Well, what did you expect? A way to do all that easily, as well as save time, and save money?"

"That's what you promised," said Gutenberg meekly.

"What do I look like, a wizard?" said the stranger. And he faded into the early morning light seconds before Johannes' digital alarm began to beep.

Stephen Spoja heads his own graphic design firm in San Francisco, Calif.
COPYRIGHT 1990 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Spoja, Stephen
Publication:Communication World
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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