Mad Old Men unearthed

So many people seemed interested in my recollections about old typewriters that I thought I’d share this dusty relic, a three-part conversation between Tommy Kane and me in which we discuss all the old technologies that used to be part of our work in advertising. If you’ve had a long career in design or what you used to be called ‘Madison Avenue,’ it’ll ring some ancient bells.

We recorded it about four years ago. It’s sort of pathetic how unreliable our memories were already.

18 thoughts on “Mad Old Men unearthed”

  1. I so appreciate you reminiscing like this about the process. My father was in advertising for many years so it helped me to understand a portion of his world better. It boggles my brain how far we have progressed technologically in my lifetime.

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  2. Wow, made my day. I have two yellowing-but-useful proportion wheels in my desk, still, and probably have wax from the layout gun on the bottom of a shoe or two. My first experience of love was fainting into the arms of my art teacher in 9th grade, but turns out it was only from the fixative fumes.

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  3. This made me laugh…I remember recently telling a student about tools I used during my years as a analog photographer and having them look at me like I was describing my favorite stone ax.

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  4. This made me smile. First, it was fun to see you and Tommy together. But it made me think about my recent conversation w/ a new teacher about the old “ditto” machines that we’d make copies w/ in schools “back in the day”:)

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  5. Amberlith, Rubylith, Best Test Rubber Cement and OMG, ONE COAT! Rubber Cement Pickup, Hand waxer, Lettraset and Chartpak, line tape, color sheets and screens, Design Markers, ruling pens, rapidographs, India ink, Pelican White and non-repro blue, “For Position Only”, crop marks and percentages on photos, type “to fit” or “to fill”, tissue overlays . . . yeah, I was there.

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  6. I love this…my early days in an ad agency right out of school 35 years ago…you guys nailed it!! My favorite line about the 80’s…”back when girls had shoulders.” I guess when the tractor was invented, the old guys would sit around talking about the “horse and plow days”. This made my day. Thanks!

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  7. That was a really fun trip down retro lane. Having come of age in advertising in the 70s, I can remember all those tools and gadgets, with the exception of the in-house type setting machine. We didn’t have one of those. A Lucigraph, though, yeah, that was essential. I still have my Lucy although I’ll probably part with it some day. We donated our flatbed moviola to an editing house just last week. It had been stored in my parents garage and we’re getting ready for an estate sale. In the creative world there’s room for old tools, new tools, old skills and new skills. I’m working on a large commission right now which I will paint in oil (very old school) but I’m doing the comps for the client in Photoshop, with too many layers to count. There’s lots of ways to get the job done. It’s all good.

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  8. well at first I thought that two nine minute videos would be way too long – (lazy?) but I enjoyed them – especially the 2nd video -those yellow envelopes with the string brought me back to a high school summer job- and oh those large offices….
    and visually – love the stack of books – (artsy provoking book tower) and then the green tree to the right –

    my take away thought to chew on:
    “technology has made anyone feel like they can be an expert”
    yeah, but it still cannot make someone creative and original – hm….

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  9. Funny, and nostalgic, to listen to all the terminology (remembered or not) from the Old Days of the advertising industry from you two! Having been in publishing and printing in the ’80s, so much overlapped. The spray mount, holy s**t that stuff was awful. What a novel idea…an exhaust fan! Why didn’t my boss think of that? (Shudder). We got around that by doing paste up with the hot wax. However, the naphtha solvent we used to take the wax off left me loopy by the time I hit the freeway to head home at the end of the day! And the ruby lithe (spelling?) to cut overlays or to strip into negatives that would burn the plates. Wow. The camera! Thanks for the walk down memory lane, guys. Priceless!

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  10. Thanks for the memories. Everything took so many steps. I worked for Charlton Publications for a couple of years in the mid-seventies. I think headlines were printed with a photo method on a Typositer. Everything required Photostats, register marks, blue pencil. We thought we were coming up in the world when we got a waxer and could stop using rubber cement. I still have one of the wheels used to order resizing. Thanks, again. See you both at Sketchbook Skool.

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  11. I grew up in the 40’s and 50’s in a small farming community, before TV, mass advertising and such. Sure there were ads in some local newspapers but little in the way making you buy one product over another. In fact you had very little choice anyway. Buy a Ford, they’re the best; drive a mile and walk the rest. When TV did finally arrive, I was told to see the USA in my Chevrolet. I could only dream of owning a used car, if I had money. Anything that would run would be great. The 60’s and 70’s were pretty much the same. So like our two artist friends have said in their video above that things have changed a lot. The real changes began, in my opinion, in the 1980’s. That is when computers arrived and the majority of us were blindsided and did not see the potential. The genie was out of the bottle and the world will never be the same. Whatever business or public service you are in, the world would never be the same. It continues to change faster than we know.

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  12. Ha! I really enjoyed your trip down memory lane. I had a job as an in house trypesetter/keyliner. I have no one to talk to, who knows what that even is!

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  13. That was brilliant to watch, bringing back old memories. I recall too the roneo machine. I used an IBM golfball, would deactivate the ribbon and your golfball would cut through the waxed roneo pages, which would then be inked and passed through the roneo machine creating what we would today call a photostat. God forbid that you had to do a re-run and have to haul that old inked waxed page from an inky draw somewhere and flatten it out on the machine! Oi vey!

    My apologies Danny for calling you Tommy in an earlier spot, but I was just reading his page in your book “An Illustrated Journey” – a fab book.

    Pearl
    Johannesburg, South Africa

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  14. Enjoyed this so much. The curtain pulled back. And I always like to see bookshelves and became fascinated trying to get the title of Things ______ Learning. Tried amazon for things worth learning, nope. What is the title? What are you reading? And today? What is the book on your nightstand?

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  15. Ah, the memories. I also worked in the studio at a few ad agencies. I was working my way through college and sort of bluffed my way in, not really knowing all the stuff. I had to cut rubylith, that red film that Tommy was talking about. I was the one that would be stuck spraying for all the presentations, so who knows how much I inhaled. I would use that huge camera that would take black and white photos in the dark room. They said to be sure to close the box of film before you exposed your film and I forgot once and exposed a brand new giant box of sheets of 11 X 17 film. I just closed the bag and put it back, hoping no one would notice until I went back to school. I remember fixing kerning and leading on as small as 7 point type that was mounted with wax and what a pain that was. I still have a thing about computer generated type that has bad kerning…like between an A and a W…ugh, the curse of knowing about good kerning. Thanks for the trip.

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  16. It is behind Tommy’s head, ( in the video) is black and I can read the words Things_______ Learning. But it might but a title to one of your sketchbooks. If so, there is another book you should publish!!!!

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  17. Paste-up, type spec’ing, making color seps with ruby/amberlith, clip art books, non-photo blue pens! It was a tedious business, but at the same time I took satisfaction in the physical DOING. I got out of graphic arts when I could see the use of computers replacing all this…this ARCANA. To sit, all the long day, in front of a monitor, eyes glazed, hand poised anxiously over the mouse, well, no, uh-uh…this was even worse than starring into a light table all day. Now everybody with a computer thinks he can “do” graphic design with no learnin’ whatsoever.
    Thank goodness I got my learnin’ from the wonderful Phil Risbeck and John Sorbie at Colorado State University in the 1980s. We students were always fussing about the mechanics of the work, wanting to be taught the physical, hands-on skills we thought would make us more employable after graduation. But Risbeck and Sorbie correctly believed the methods were ever-evolving and what we needed was wide-ranging knowledge of lots of things, curiosity, a good eye for color and design, knowledge of typography, and ability to meet a deadline!
    Thanks Danny and Tommy for the reminiscing.

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