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The Need For Backup

Started by Mechanic, February 05, 2010, 05:28:00 AM

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Printle: A Printing Word Game from Metal Type


While I was looking at patents for machines related to the typesetting industry I happened upon an invention patent filed in September 1898 by Erl V.
Beals, and approved in March 1902. It appears to be based on the Rogers Typograph principle of using matrix bars.

Mr. Beals claims that his invention is to improve and simplify the construction of these machines. From what I gather the machine has a central matrix bar assembly and casting unit capable of casting  lines of type in either metal or plastic. The machine can have a number of keyboards and all cast lines will be delivered to the operator that set the lines.

Not a very practical approach to manufacturing. If the central unit has a problem all operators would have to stop work. This approach reminds me of the introduction of justifying computers into the printing industry, where several perforator keyboard operators produced tape to be processed by a central computer. The industry soon learned that you need backup even if one computer could do the job you had better have two just incase.

At the Sydney Morning Herald in 1970 we had two Digital PDP8's for typesetting. The two machines were in data processing on the sixth floor and production was on the fourth floor. We only needed one computer to handle the production work load. The other one was used for data processing as long as it was not required for production. This approach worked reasonably well. At the insistence of  an old and wise senior technician, we even duplicated all the communication lines between the tape readers and punches on the fourth floor and the computers on the sixth floor.

When I questioned the senior tech on the need to do this he said. "You can be wrong, I can't."

I didn't quite understand what he meant by this but I told him to go ahead and duplicate the lines.

Two years later we were installing a new computer system  including Digiset phototypesetters. To  house this equipment we were building a production computer room on the fourth floor. The builders came to me and said that as part of the construction they were going to have to remove the backup communication line. Well it had never once been required, so I said go ahead.

The next day one of the senior techs came to me and said that a carpenter had just driven a nail through the communication cable. Fortunately the old senior tech had retired so I didn't have to hear him say "I told you so."

If you wish to have a look at the typesetter's patent details the following URL will take you there:-

George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

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