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Adelaide Advertiser Model 27 1936

Started by Mechanic, September 01, 2014, 02:17:30 AM

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Printle: A Printing Word Game from Metal Type


The text of the story below, is a real layman's insight in to how a Linotype works.

Wonderful Inventions
Which Seem Almost Able To Reason

FEW industrial processes have been so revolutionised by a single discovery as newspaper production by the invention of the linotype machine. It res- cued journalism from the shackles of hand setting of type; it was the greatest factor in the development of   the modern newspaper. Without it, dailies of 30, 40   or 50 pages, with hundreds of columns of news fresh from   the happening, and sold at a price almost ridiculously   low in view of what it buys, would not have been.   Within a space little greater than that of an office   desk, the linotype compresses a thousand delicately   wrought parts discharging tasks of wonderful delicacy   and intricacy. In a creation of steel have been embodied so many operations so complicated, yet so sure,   that it would seem that invention can go no further, and   Ottmar Mergenthaler, its originator, stands out as a   genius. 
FROM the year when printing from movable type was invented until the beginning of the 19th century, there was no noteworthy advance in the method of making or composing type. Faces were designed by experts their names are perpetuated in the styles which they originated—punches were made according to the designs, matrices bearing the impress of the punches followed, and the type was cast from them in metal and finished by hand. The letters and symbols were distributed into compartmental trays, whence they were picked up singly by compositors, placed in sequence in a metal frame called a printer's "stick," and then made up into columns and pages. After the paper had been printed the letters were re-distributed into their compartments, and used again and again until their faces became so worn and flattened that they gave an unsatisfactory impression. The disadvantages of the method were obvious. The time factor was the predominant one, for even the most dexterous compositor could not set more than 2½ - columns of ordinary newspaper text in an eight-hour day. There was further, waste time involved in replacing the types in their cases. It is not surprising, therefore, that big newspapers employed hundreds of compositors. Even the four-page issues which Adelaide read in its formative days required a staff of 20. The Idea THE great industrial awakening which marked the end of the 19th century stimulated a demand for the mechanisation of every industrial process, and the slow and cumbrous method of hand setting was assailed. First, it was proposed to accelerate it without fundamentally altering its nature. By eliminating words infrequently used, the English language was reduced to about 5,000 words, and it was thought that if those could be further disintegrated into syllables, roots, prefixes, and combinations such as -ph" and "th frequently found together, blocks of types could be made of the combinations, as well as of prepositions and conjunctions. With such aids, the assembling of text would be simplified and expedited for a great many more letters could be picked from the case at each movement. However, it was doubtful if the gains balanced the disadvantages, for the cases became unwieldy and the number of compartments was too great for the compositor to memorise. So logographic printing, as it was called, quietly dropped out of the printing house.  The next effort was to assemble by mechanical means the type which had already been cast by the type founders, but the problems associated with such a step were insurmountable —it was found impossible to space out the line evenly, and the difficulties of re distributing the used types were never overcome. In face of these dilemmas, invention switched to revolutionary ideas. The most feasible seemed to be machines which would assemble moulds from which complete lines of type could be cast in the form of metal slugs. That was the line along which success lay, and it is still fundamentally the basis of the linotype.

YEARS of application and patient conquest of difficulty lay between   the conception and its fulfillment, but at last success was achieved, and so far as the needs of straight-forward composing were concerned, Mergenthaler's triumph was complete, for the machine meant that the text for a daily newspaper could be set with a fraction of the labor involved by the old methods, with their hosts of compositors and enormous stocks of type. Success however, was not unqualified. Speed and economy were achieved at the expense of quality and the sacrifice of many typographical refinements which had become printers' traditions. Accelerated production was counter-balanced by the necessity for resetting a complete line if there was a single error in the original. That brought in its train the possibility of a further error in the new line, and of the new line being put in the wrong place. Time has remedied the decline in typographical refinement, for beautiful and ornate typefaces can now be machine-cast; the two other difficulties are inherent, although unsleeping care can almost entirely obviate them.
Behind The Scenes
AS you watch an operator gently stroking the typewriter-like keys on   the board of the linotype, you see, at intervals, a thin flat piece of silvery metal clink down on to a tray beside him. It is about an inch deep, as thick as a biscuit, as wide as a column of type. It is a lead slug on which a line of type has been set. You cannot see how the mysterious little slab of lead with the words or figures embossed on it has been formed, but this is the way:—In response to the operator's touch on the keyboard, say on the key marked "a." a little brass matrix with an "a" incised on its face is released from a compartment where the "a's"' reside in the upper part of the machine. It slides down a channel, and takes up its place in a metal frame near the front of the machines. Other matrices, with their letters, follow it down in correct sequence at the summons from the keyboard, until the frame is full—that is, sufficient letters have been assembled to make a line. Then the operator raises a lever and begins setting the next line. The   touch brings the machine to life. First, the frame of matrices is carried across and their moulds forced against an   opening exactly the size of a line of   newspaper type, in the steel face of the machine. As they reach there, there is a stirring from below, and from a reservoir of heated metal in I the bowels of the machine a charge of molten lead is forced through the crack against the moulds. A moment's pause, and an ejector deposits the solid slug with its embossed lettering in the tray at the operator's hand. But the cycle started by the lever is not nearly over. As you watch, a skeleton arm descends, plucks the row of matrices from the frame, and carries them to a distributor bar on which they find their way back to their cubby holes. If you look at the back of the machine, you will see the tiny "mats" clinging to the bar like acrobats to a beam, travelling along until they reach the entrance to their home. There they drop off with a tiny clink, ready to be used the next minute.
The Open Sesame
HOW does the "a," for instance, know where it be longs? Why is it that it never enters "b's" slot? Because the top edge of each "mat" is serrated into a series of teeth like a tiny Yale key lock. On the bar is a series of ridges, varying in arrangement at the mouth of each channel of the magazine. So our "a," propelled by slowly-revolving carrier screws, creeps along the bar, its teeth clinging to the ridges, and feeling for the arrangement which re- presents its key hole. When it finds that spot, down it drops into its own and proper cubby hole, where there are only other '"a's." And there it waits until the magic call from the keyboard sends it adventuring forth again in the business of telling the news. While it has been returning home, the operator has set, perhaps, two or three other lines, calling its companions down, for all have to take their turn. Should the operator fail to call down enough to fill out his line in the frame, the machine, in silent dis- gust, refuses to set it. Should he de- sire several reproductions of one line, the machine will cast it over and over again at the behest of a simple lever.   And what actuates this robot? An electric motor supplies the power, while for muscles and joints it substitutes springs, more than 600 of them, and cams—more than 100. Its every motion is a source of delight and interest to the mechanic.
27 Type Faces
THERE are 33 of these machines on the composing room floor of the new building of "The Advertiser," the pride of them being the Model 27 Linotype, the latest product of the Mergenthaler Company. Twenty years ago linotypes seldom had more than one magazine. This has three. That is, the operator has at his almost instant call three complete founts, or complete faces of type. He can change from one to the other in 10 seconds by operating a screw. In a cabinet at his side are 24 additional magazines, any one of which can be substituted for one on the machine in less than a. minute. Thus, his resources of type faces are wide. In the twinkling of an eye he can transfer from the seven-point face, in which most of the ordinary text of "The Advertiser" is printed, to large display characters for headings. Should there be a call for it, he can clamp on another magazine and set 48 point characters half an inch high. That is not the end of him, for there is an accessory attachment by which he can cast characters of 72 point, approximately half as big again as the 48,   although, in that case, the line must be set by hand in a special frame, and then slipped into the machine. MODEL 27 has other features more apparent to the mechanical than the lay mind, but several of them have a popular interest. When it was de sired to set a single word at a certain spot on a line on one of the old ma- chines, it was necessary to use numerous spacing devices when the line was assembled in the frame. A turn of a dial, and the new machines obviates all that, setting the line in the centre, or at the extreme right, or left, at the operator's will. Another device, the Mohr saw, cuts newly-cast lines into any length desired from two-thirds of an inch to five inches, and delivers them to the tray at the operator's hand. Thence they   can be taken and dropped directly in the page of type. 
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

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