The Rise and Fall of Phototypesetting – Part Two.


In the late 1960s Mergenthaler was purchasing perforator terminals to drive its lead casting Linotype machines, from a Massachusetts company named Compugraphic. This led to a new development… At this time Photon was the leading, if not the only, phototypesetter manufacturer; its president was a man named Bill Garth. He wanted to produce a small, inexpensive typesetting machine, but his board of directors preferred more glamorous large, expensive machines.

Garth left Photon and moved to Compugraphic, a much smaller company only a short distance down the road. At Compugraphic he arranged to buy back from Mergenthaler the rights to the machine that Compugraphic had been making for them, which had been developed at Mergenthaler’s expense. Then he used the keyboards, logic, and hardware to directly drive a small integral phototypesetter. These machines took up less room than the old hot type machines and were, I believe, the first inexpensive typesetting machines that could be said to run “on line,” allowing justified type with several different fonts, and special characters without any paper tape punching. They weren’t very versatile, didn’t allow a lot of fonts at one time, and didn’t set very wide columns, but then the hot type machines they replaced were even less clever. Best of all, they didn’t worry the International Typographical Union because they simply replaced the hot type machines without reducing the number of operators.

In only a few years Compugraphic was doubling in size every year. It is said that at a large typesetting show, Garth pulled a chair over across from the Photon booth, where the salesmen were standing around watching the stream of people pouring in and out of the Compugraphic booth. He sat there smiling, entertaining his friends, and making Photon’s management miserable. Compugrahic ceased operations in 1988.

via Graphion Museum: Old Phototypesetter Tales.