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Auto Shopper - Storage Closet Time Machine

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On: Thu, May 13, 2010 at 10:52AM | By: Clay Ritchings

Auto Shopper - Storage Closet Time Machine

It’s spring and, like most of us, I was doing a little cleaning around my office and decided to include a closet that was so accurately named “The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”. The closet looks like something straight out of the TV show “Hoarders”. Boxes of parts from computers that can never be used again—old printers that we will never use—boxes of old cables that are so tangled that it would take hours to get one out. While digging I came across the first digital camera that we used here at Auto Shopper—The “Logitech Photoman”. The camera had its problems—like the exclusion of a removable storage disk. All the photos were stored in the camera’s internal memory, so if the battery died you lost all your photos. Even though this camera did not work for us, it was an important step in getting our feet wet in the digital darkroom age. Until that point we had to staff a full-blown darkroom to process the 250+ rolls of film generated by our sales staff every week. Thankfully we had a large processor that would do the grunt work of film developing—that was no picnic, but a vast improvement from when we used to process the film in the bathtub at someone’s home.

This little bit of memorabilia made me dig further into the treasure-trove of items from a time when all our ads were built using grid paper, border tape, benday screens, and wax. Typesetting was done on a Kroy 80 Lettering Machine and later we used AM Varityper Phototypesetters, both with a whopping 50 fonts. The copy for each car was typed in, and then printed out in long strips of paper that was later waxed and cut and matched up with the photo. The ads were pasted together with wax, built to each customer’s specifications in a process that was more like “Color Forms” than graphic arts. Exacto knives, straight edges and rulers were the tools of trade, far different from the tools we use today.

The ads would be placed onto flats; flats were large boards you rolled the ads onto that included a folio and page number. If the book changed in pages, you had to add or delete flats and re-number all the pages—a real pain is the @#%. After all the dealer ads and classifieds were placed on the flats the book would be driven to the printer. The printer then shot each flat to create plates for the printing press. The plates would then be put on the press, and yada yada yada, the latest edition of Auto Shopper was born. Somewhere around 1998 we sent our first editions to print in a digital format, ending the need to drive to the printer, and getting a better product by going direct to plate with files that were transferred over FTP.

Equipment has come and gone—all in trial and error—from the many digital cameras we tried to the many desktop publishing programs we employed to get the job done. It seems like yesterday; I can almost hear the wax machine’s motor humming, almost smell fixative and darkroom chemicals in the air. As I take a look through some of the old books I am amazed at how far we have come from the old days. Always moving forward to produce colorful, eye-catching ads that will get the results that our customers are looking for.

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gator done | 2:36PM (Thu, May 13, 2010)

GREAT ARTICLE! Very interesting! I wish I had been around to experience "the beginning". I know it would make me appreciate the tools we use today!


RoadKill | 5:03PM (Thu, May 13, 2010)

I remember using the Kodak DC50, as a matter of fact I still have one somewhere in the closet. They did not take great pictures but they were real work horses out on the road. They could take abuse from weather and banging aroundnot like the frail cameras today.

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