Map: 'tech.GIF'

Technology For Graphic Production 1983/85

In this presentation of a historic, more than ten years old, example of design at use we have to put ourselves into the perspective of the technology at that time. This is a snapshot of the dynamic changes in technology in the early 1980's with the hardware and soft functionality of the image processing system studied here, TIPS IMAGE-500, as final illustration.

Graphic work stations
A revolution in use of computers emerging from the research labs
The pioneering work on graphic workstation hardware and software at Xerox PARC from 1976, including the Alto workstation, the laser writer, Ethernet, Smalltalk, the Star graphical user interface for document handling, had just been brought to more general use, still mainly in research organisations. The first graphic workstation that one could buy in Sweden was Perq (1983), offspring of research at Carnegie-Melton University. (See Utopia Background) The Apple Macintosh (February 1984), built with much cheaper and less powerful standard components, but still a graphic workstation functionally, was still considered a toy, but its potential for creative work was more and more recognised. Unix-based graphic workstations, eg. from Sun, came in 1985. Mainframe, even mini-, computers were still much more powerful for computation and storage of data than the largest work stations. Laser writers and flat-bed scanners were just emerging from the laboratories.

Page make-up
Dominant paper based techniques
The then dominant, and still to a large extent prevailing, technology for pre-press graphic and newspaper production was based on paper, with photo-typesetters for text and graphics, rastered pictures on paper, and paste-up onto a page paper ground, with knife, ruler and wax as tools.
... after centuries of wood and metal
This technology was only a couple of decades "new" after centuries of wood and metal technology. Digital technology was expected to take over soon making the paper based technology a mere parenthesis. Experiments with digital page make-up and image processing in real production were very important both for workers and managers.
  • First generation from ca 1450: wood and metal
  • Second generation from ca 1965: paper paste
  • Third generation from ca 1985: digital

Simulation on the Perq of page make-up work shown at full tabloid page (on an A4 screen, 70% reduction) for judging typographic balance.

Image processing
Dominant photographic techniques
For image processing, which is the main theme of this study of a system at use, there is a parallel, but more extended, development. Until about 1850 the only way to process images was to carve pictures by hand in a tangible printing medium, for instance in wood or stone. Around that time began the development of photo chemical methods for transferring and etching projected images onto metal blocks. The paper based technology for page make-up made it natural to use half-tone photographs as well as other paperborne images and mount them as originals.
... scanners under introduction
From about 1980 computer technology is also applied to improve and colour separate images which have been recorded with a scanner. During the work the images exist solely in digital form in the computer presented as images on a display screen. This technique is a prerequisite for third generation integrated page make-up systems (text, graphics, and images together).
  • First generation from ca 1450: wood and metal clichés
  • Second generation from ca 1850: photographic methods
  • Third generation from ca 1980: digital scanning and image processing

HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, a hot new subject
Human-computer interface crucial for good tools
With the graphic workstations came development of flexible means for humans to interact with computers, controlling its actions by "direct manipulation" (a term coined 1983) i.e. using the mouse for pointing, clicking, dragging and dropping of "objects" visible on the screen, and getting information presented not only as plain text but as graphics and text with typography, WYSIWYG (What You See Is (almost) What You Get (on paper), another term coined then). A definite result from this user study and from Utopia was the observation that the design of the human-computer interface is crucial for quality in computerized tools for image processing and page make-up work, see Quality of Work and Product.

TIPS IMAGE-500 hardware
The following technical data are taken directly from Liber TIPS' specification of the installation at Aftonbladet, April 1984.
Host computer
Digital superminicomputer VAX 11/750, 3 Mbytes primary memory, Winchester disks.
TIPS CAPS-Central Array Processing System
For communication between host computer and workstations and handling the volumes of data needed for image generation: 40 Mbyte/sec internal computer network, high speed memory, array processor with pipeline functions, direct connection to TIPS PPD scanner.
TIPS flat-bed scanner
Based in CCD-technology: Film or paper original, formats from 35 mm film to 400 mm x 600 mm, resolution 2000-8000 elements in grey-scale, speed 2 minutes/page.
With individually variable units on table (60-105 cm high) for working standing or sitting with one text and one image terminal, all units freely movable and tiltable.
Text terminal
For systems dialog and control: communication with other TIPS sytems, communication with the image data base, image search with keywords, presentation of image catalogues (directories), control over current work, alternative input of functions.
Image terminal with graphic tablet and mouse
For interactive handling of graphic images and half-tone images: 20 inch screen, "split-screen" with several windows on the screen, image processor, 2-4 Mbyte internal memory, resolution for graphics of 1440x1150 pixels, resolution for half-tone pictures of 720x575 pixels, choice of colour and form of the cursor, two separate crosshairs, continuous scrolling vertically and horizontally, zooming.

TIPS IMAGE-500 functionalities
The following list of functional requirements is a short version of Liber TIPS' specification of the installation at Aftonbladet, April 1984. Most of the requirements are directly taken from the Requirement specification.
The image processing consists of input of continuous tone images (photographs) and drawings from film or paper, processing and modification of images and combinations of images, output of proofs for control of looks and quality, control of rastering, final output or transfer to page make-up system.
Conceptual model
A digital image processing table with electronic tools, windows showing the whole or parts, maybe magnified, of the table, menus and status information, a mouse for moving a cursor choosing and dragging pictures, a model of images consisting of three layers: transparency, intensity and form, functions listed below.
In general "object-oriented" command sequence, where one first specifies the target object, e.g. by pointing and clicking, then specifies operation, e.g. by choice in menu or keyboard, cf Selected Requirements in Requirement Specification. The list of functions was essentially the repertoire of operations in those selected requirements.

Latest update by Axel Henriksson 96-04-16