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Remembering Efi Arazi

WhatTheyThink was saddened to learn of the passing of innovator and entrepreneur Efi Arazi on Sunday. Senior Editor Cary Sherburne spoke with EFI CEO Guy Gecht and Landa Nanographics CEO Benny Landa who share their thoughts about Arazi’s contributions to the industry and the world, and she invites our readers to chime in with their own remembrances and thoughts about this great man.

By Cary Sherburne
Published: April 18, 2013

While I was not fortunate enough to meet Efi Arazi personally, my first interactions with EFI date back to the early days of EFI when I managed a sales team for Xerox responsible for the 5775 color copier printer, a predecessor to the Xerox DocuColor line that used the EFI Fiery as its digital front end.  Without the Fiery and the innovations Arazi brought to our industry as the digital age was unfolding, we would not have been able to be as successful as we were with that early entrant to the market.  We were primarily competing against the Canon 1000, which also used an EFI Fiery front end.

Many of our readers will know of Efi Arazi much earlier than that due to his founding of Scitex and the huge impact that had on our industry.  Many may not know that his impact ranged outside of our industry as well.

I spoke with both EFI’s CEO Guy Gecht and Landa Nanographics CEO Benny Landa who knew Efi well. They were kind enough to share some remarks, and I hope that our readers will chime in with their own memories and thoughts about this great man who we lost too soon.

Gecht pointed out that Efi’s impact on the world began long before Scitex, saying, “Efi's life achievements are wide, starting in the 1960's with his involvement in the development of the video camera that transmitted to the world the initial pictures of the first man walking on the moon, to arguably being the person that shaped the printing industry the most in recent history through the two companies he founded, Scitex and EFI.”

Landa added, “Efi Arazi’s invention of digital pre-press enabled graphic content to go direct-to-film, which changed the printing industry forever. But Efi Arazi changed more than just technology. He changed society. As a pioneer in the application of science to low-tech, he was one of the forefathers of what today we call ‘high-tech,’ the engine of our economy. Indeed, Efi Arazi was a gifted visionary. But perhaps his greatest gift was his charisma, his ability to inspire young engineers – and then an entire industry - to follow his vision. He will be remembered and missed by all who had the privilege of knowing this great man.”

Gecht concluded, “Though he had not been with EFI for several years, Efi Arazi's passion for innovation, creative genius, and sense of humor are traits that EFI is forever committed to keeping deeply in our culture. We have many employees who worked closely with Efi years ago, and it has been touching to relive some of our favorite memories of Efi with each other this week. While sadly Efi is no longer with us, his contributions to the printing industry will continue to make a significant impact for years to come."

I encourage our readers to add their thoughts and memories using our Comment feature.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.

 

Discussion

By Simon Eccles on Apr 18, 2013

The last time I met Efi Arazi was in the mid 1990s, when his interests had moved on from scanners and the like and he talked at length about the potential for high definition digital cameras that could be used for both high resolution print and movies.

He was way ahead of his time then, as what he was talking about only really appeared with the recent 4k DSLRs in the past few years. But he certainly saw it coming.

Given his work with lunar cameras in the 1960s, it's no wonder he could think through the implications so well 30 years later.

 

By Simon Eccles on Apr 18, 2013

The story about Efi Arazi working at MIT to develop the TV camera for the Apollo 11 manned moon landing seems to be repeated a lot. However, it's not exactly as I originally heard it years ago from someone who'd worked with Efi at Scitex. This was that he'd worked on a film scanning system for an unmanned 1960s moon probe, that beamed the images back to earth.

The book "Live TV: From the Moon" by Dwight Steven-Boniecki, only mentions commercial TV and electronics companies, in particular RCA and Westinghouse, as developing the slow-scan video cameras for Apollo. I haven't found any mention of Efi or MIT in that book (from 2010). Google doesn't come up with any mention of Efi and Apollo other than Wikipedia, plus repeats in very recent news pages that went up after his death.

However, the earlier unmanned NASA/JPL Lunar Orbiter space probes scanned almost the entire Moon in 1966 and 1967 as continuous strips to produce maps for the later landings. These had film cameras on board, together with chemical processors and scanners, which beamed the images back to earth (I'm not sure whether as analogue or digital signals).

This scanning concept seems to match Efi's area of expertise and is closer to the story I heard years ago. The Lunar Orbiter cameras and processors were made by Kodak, but there's less information on the scanner and transmitter, which is where Efi may come in.

Also, it seems he did his moon work at Harvard, not MIT as the reports claim, At Harvard he seems to have worked with an Italian space scientist called Mario Grossi, who went on to develop the space tether orbital power generating tests in subsequent decades. Efi's MIT involvement seems to be later, when he aproached them to do research that was to lead to the early Sci-Tex systems (which were originally for textiles, not graphics, hence SCIentific-TEXtiles).

Another ex-Scitex person I spoke to reckons that Efi had previously worked on an Israeli air force project for an imaging system (possibly a monitor) called Zvitek (Zvi being the name of the main developer), and it was something similar to this that he took to MIT as the basis of what eventually came to reality at Sci-Tex.

Doubtless other people know the reality better than me, as I only got these stories second and third hand.

OK, Space Geek Mode -> OFF

 

By Robert Whitton on Apr 18, 2013

Efi Arazi was an Integrator. At Scitex he reverse-engineered the Hell DC 300 and the Helioklischograph to do what even Hell, Crosfield and DN Screen couldn't do so well, build a straight line from A (Source-Input) to B (Output) -- OK, for sure storage and processing was in between. What happened with the EFI RIP and the early postscript printers was another flavor of the same thing.

 

By Andrew Tribute on Apr 18, 2013

I had the privilege of meeting Efi on many occasions. The first was at the preview of the Scitex Response color workstation in Milan in 1979. The presentation was totally mind-blowing as it showed how the industry would totally change over the next decade led by Scitex.

Within Seybold we remembered Efi for his presentations at Seybold Seminars. Not for him was the structured PowerPoint presentation. He favored the felt tip pen and flip chart to explain his ideas. If only we had kept these wonderful pictorial ramblings as he rapidly switched from topic to topic in his speeches. They would be worth a lot today.

I visited Efi in Israel when he ran Scitex and later in San Bruno, CA, soon after he started EFI. In San Bruno I needed to go out at lunchtime for some shopping and Efi generously lent me his brand new Lexus to go downtown. He then gave me an early draft of the initial EFI IPO document suggesting I might like to invest. This was when the the key product was EFiColor and Efi and his engineers were just getting a PC to drive their Canon color copier via the engineer's port as they needed a color printer for testing output. At that time there was no plan for this to become the Fiery product. Unfortunately I assessed the IPO plan on the basis of EfiColor rather than the concept of Fiery and did not invest.

Efi should be remembered as one of the great visionaries and entrepreneurs who believed in inventing the future not just predicting it. He was one of the key founders of the modern prepress world and an inspiration for a whole generation of developers and engineers in Israel that brought that country to the forefront of the digital world.

 

By Mitch Bogart on Apr 18, 2013

I am fortunate to be one of those who met Efi on a technical and personal level. Over 20 years ago, as we were founding Rampage Systems and as Efi was founding EFI, Efi invited me over for a job interview with him in Harvard Square at the hotel he was staying. This was truly the most enjoyable interview I was ever part of. After the technical talk of technologies and plans and sharing of visions, it became a personal shmooze. Efi introduced me to his son and we all had a great discussion out on the hotel patio. I felt he was interested in me and my history as a person and not just a cog. Though I had only a bachelors degree from MIT, and our company was small, remarkably he was talking with me as an equal and a friend. We were making great plans for Rampage then, and had hand-picked individuals from Autographix, the presentation graphics company I helped start. Also I and my family really didn't want to relocate to Palo Alto. He was very cordial when I told him I was staying with Rampage. He wished me and us good luck in a warm way which I felt was very sincere. I'm very happy with the decision I made. Rampage is still around and we are doing some very exciting things. From that interview, it is clear to me how Efi was so successful. He deserves to be remembered as one of the great men in the history of printing.

 

By Bruce Watermann on Apr 18, 2013

I wrote a blog post after I heard of Efi's passing last weekend that WTT readers may find interesting. http://printready.blogspot.com/2013/04/rip-efi-arazi-father-of-israeli-hi-tech.html

 

By Eric Vessels on Apr 18, 2013

Thanks for sharing, Bruce. Good post. Thanks also to Cary for putting this together and offering a platform for the industry to remember Efi. Great idea!

 

By Rick Littrell on Apr 20, 2013

I was fortunate enough to work with Efi in the early 80's. I was hired by Scitex North America as employee #40 in 1982. At the time I was interviewing, Scitex was in a strip mall in Bedford, before we moved into Crosby Dr. My first exposure to him was Graph Expo in 1981. He and Ruthie were demo'ing the CIPC. I was in awe as he painted the picture of what was and what could be. I knew at that moment that I would do anything for work for that man, that company.

When I became Demo Center Manager, I would work many late nights to finish up the days demo and getting ready for the next day. When Efi was in town, he would often stay late as well. He was one of the few men that when he entered the room, you could actually feel his presence. His charisma and energy was so powerful, it would fill the room immediately. He would sit down next to me and discuss how the demo went and share some insight on how approach the next one. It was always an inspirational moment for me when he took the time to share his thoughts and vision.

I considered him my mentor and my friend. He truly changed my life and inspired me to grow both professionally and personally. He will be missed by all that knew him and he will be remembered forever.

Rest In Peace, My Friend.

 

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