T his issue marks our 33rd anniversary and the start of our 34th year of publication (Hence, the number for this issue: Volume 34, Issue 1). It’s amazing how much change can happen in 33 years. When we started texas fish & game, Ronald Reagan was president. The average new car cost just over $6,000 and a movie ticket was $2.50. Garcia graphite rods cost $14.99 and you could buy a Minn Kota trolling motor for $89.99. Interestingly, gasoline was just a little cheaper than it is today.
In our business, as we’ve discussed before, the changes have been startling.
In 1984, publishing a magazine required a lot of materials and manpower just to get an issue onto the printing press. Most of our writers still mailed in their stories as typewritten manuscripts. Photographers submitted sheets of 35mm Kodachrome slides. We had to typeset the text using lumbering computer graphics terminals. And we reviewed a hundred or more photographs for every issue, using a slide projector on a whiteboard, with staff members throwing out headline and layout suggestions while one of us sketched the ideas over the projected images.
The typeset text came out in strips that had to be cut and pasted (a term that has survived into the lexicon of digital publishing) onto layout sheets after being run through a hot wax roller to apply a sticky backing that allowed us to move the “pasted” columns around as we designed our pages. We sent the slides to an outside graphics service that used a million-dollar scanning system to create high-resolution four-color negative enlargements of the original images. A separate negative had to be made for each of the four process colors—Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK (CMYK—another digital-era holdover).
It all came together on a “stripping table,” a glass-topped back-lit workbench on which the photo negatives were taped onto 8-page-sized film flats containing the black and white text from the original layout sheets. Those text pages had been captured using a large bellows-fronted camera, like those from the Civil War era. Each of these taped-up 8 page negatives was then sent off to our printer, where they were used to develop their images onto offset plates that went onto the printing press.
We still use offset printing, where a final 8 page plate is used for each of the four process colors, but everything else about our production process has changed. Writers email their stories and photographers use digital cameras that now exceed the image quality of the old industry-standard Kodak film. They either email jpegs or upload them to our DropBox account. We use Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to create our pages and the 3 day process of pre-press stripping has been reduced to about 15 minutes of exporting PDFs. While this new film-free process still relies on an offset plate being clamped into place on an ink-fueled press, even that process has been threatening to evolve into “on demand” presses that are essentially high-speed laser printers. But, for now, we’re still living with ink stains.
Meanwhile, the New-Tech revolution that allows writers to phone in their work, and for us to use keystrokes and mouse clicks instead of razor blades and film chemistry to do ours, has begun edging out another of the Old-Tech services that we’ve had to rely on: distribution through that benevolent old institution known as the U.S. Postal Service. Our digital issues are now not only more accessible, such as optimized versions for your phone, they also have more content, including videos.
So, we’ve had a busy 33 years. How have you been?
Email Roy and Ardia Neves at [email protected]