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Elegy for a Trade Show

Published on October 11, 2019

Frank celebrates the life of PRINT, a show that had been a major part of his life for the past 51 years, and summarizes the print milestones that made their debut at McCormick Place over the years.

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By Joe Webb on Oct 11, 2019

My first PRINT was a memorable one -- PRINT80 -- which had all manner of swirling trends of digital imaging, web offset, scanner, phototypesetting, and photographic materials and color proofing. The photo side was caught up in the silver crisis that sent the prices of films for platemaking up 75% and more over multiple price increases, including a legendary one of 50% on January 26, 1980. The booths of little companies that made silver recovery units that integrated with film processor fixer tanks were packed. Color scanners were the rage, and you could get one for a mere $225,000 if you had a pulse and would use your house as collateral. It was a fascinating time. Chicago hotels were packed, and we were doubled up in rooms. I was assigned to room with a "famous" Agfa sales rep who would arrive back from his night out with customers at 2am, turn the television on, and call his wife. The TV would stay on the rest of the night. He'd get up at 6am and start the cycle all over again. I was studying for my Masters and had a book with me "Quantitative Forecasting Methods and Techniques" or something like that and he said "what is this crap? you read this?" and almost 40 years later I now ask myself the same question :) PRINT was a marvelous show that always reflected the state of the industry and offered US printers the chance to see technologies that they could only read about. There was a palpable dynamism on the show floor that was indicative of the business activity and the desire to learn about digital technologies and the opportunities they held. The last PRINT that had that feel was PRINT97; the for each one after, you could feel the digital revolution that benefited the industry go greatly started to chip away at it. I miss that particular show the most, professionally. Thank you, O Great One, :) for your personal remembrance of a key focal point for our industry and all who loved it, and still do.


By Vincent Mallardi on Oct 11, 2019

Unlike Frank and Joe today, I did not attend nor reminisce over "the last PRINT Show" last week. It died over the last several years from lack of relevance and being held in Chicago. As with all things, there is a new show to replace it. Printing United is more expansive than a bunch of aging lithographers and digital wannabees haunting McCormick Place. I had endured the slow demise of PRINT and its sister Graph-Expo after their apex in the 80's. Both had good runs, and all of us who supported the events need not be sad. As the old song goes, "We will meet again" but, this time, this month in Dallas.


By Gordon Pritchard on Oct 11, 2019

To paraphrase the old refrain: “Print trade shows never die, they just fade away.”


By Tim Murphy on Oct 11, 2019

Frank - love the video ending at McCormick - we'll miss Chicago and big steaks. But it's always more about where we're going than where we've been. See you in Texas!

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ? C.S. Lewis


By Noel Jeffrey on Oct 11, 2019

Thank you Frank. PRINT served the industry well for many years and deserves to be honored with fond memories.
Noel Jeffrey


By Raymond Prince on Oct 11, 2019

PRINT 19 was a good show in many ways - well organized, professional, great seminars and much information available. I have attended most of the Graph Expos and PRINT shows since 1968. I did see a lot of buying at the show. Yes it was smaller, the big equipment gone. Setting up equipment at McCormick is costly and the hotel cost is a killer. Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, and Orlando are cost effective for manufacturers and attendees. Not sure if Elegy is the right word since print is alive. See you all in a better location. By the way Frank I saw you at the show in 1968 and you have not changed a bit!!


By Frank Romano on Oct 11, 2019

But I had hair then!


By Stan Najmr on Oct 12, 2019

The city boy felt out of place,
Sitting in that cowboy space.
His jeans weren't Wranglers, not even Lee,
He spied the door and thought to flee.
But then, like Homer, the sightless Greek,
The poets started in to speak.
The tales they told in easy rhyme,
Took him back to a simpler time -
(Don Cadden)


By Frank Kanonik on Oct 14, 2019

Joe, your mention of Print 80 brought back a lot of good memories. That was the first show I attended back in my GATF days. It was incredible to see all the iron running.

You would get a mild buzz from all of the press solvents being used before McCormick's air conditioning was turned on each morning.

It was common for cabbies and restaurants not to accept 100 dollar bills for fear of them being counterfeit since "the whole city was full of printers"!

You've given me the motivation to take a look at a tray of slides of Print 80 I've kept all these years. LOL, Kodachromes shot with my trusty Nikon F!


By Craig Kevghas on Oct 14, 2019

My first Graph Expo was not until 1987, but my memories of the event were many:

Seeing Regrigerator Perry walking the aisles;

Dealing with some the toughest unions in the nation during setups;

Scitex giving away soccer balls that were everywhere (on the show floor and at O'Hare);

The stories of getting home after 9/11;

The largest and most delicious steak dinners;

Going to a Cubs/White Sox exhibition game, even before interleague play and learning about Kosher hot dogs;

So many packed EFI Press Conferences and all our industry friends;

I'll even miss fighting through Chicago's marathons to get to the hall.

If the show has truly seen it's last days, i'll always cherish the memories of the events, the people that them special, and the tremendous impact each one had on the industry that we live and love.


By Dave Reynolds on Oct 15, 2019

Frank, I always thought you would outlive print and you have, even if it's just the show ;)

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Even though PRINT started for me in '96, I'll never forget it because you introduced me to Chuck Geschke, co-founder of Adobe, what an impact that had early in my career and still does today.


By Dave Reynolds on Oct 15, 2019

Correction, PRINT '97!


By Chuck Surprise on Oct 16, 2019

PRINT was an interesting, informative destination for me from the mid-80s until my last show, 2001. PPA had scheduled a post-PRINT meeting, hosted by a Chicago member. I arrived from San Diego on the 10th to check meeting arrangements and confirm appointments with various vendors. I was housed in the Best Western off Michigan Blvd, overlooking the park. I awoke late on the 11th, clicked on the news and the featured story was that a plane had struck the World Trade Tower. Like most of America, I was unable to leave the story as it slowly, painfully unfolded. PRINT, next day, was deserted. PPA members, flying in for the weekend meeting were stranded at all points of the compass. While many feel that PRINT has lost its relevance, for me, after 2001, it was a painful memory.


By Robert Godwin on Oct 16, 2019

Last trade show I went to was the HOW conference at McCormick. No point in eulogizing PRINT. Best thing to happen to print is the pruning digital ad channels performed on an obese, out of touch industry. What remains is strong. The hoorahs for print are yawners. Hooray for design where print is an option to distinguish a message.

On a plane yesterday for 9 hours. I read a book that I held in my hands, no batteries, no USB cord, just paper. The young couple next to me read their bible, printed as a book. The older lady two rows in front dropped book several times, the screen did not crack because it was printed on paper.

The argument is simple- print is tactile and static. I like my bookcase, with sagging shelves from the weight of oversized artbooks. I also like watercolors, acrylic/oil paintings, charcoal drawings, silver gelatin prints. I dictated this comment on my brand-new iPad Pro. I did not turn into a pillar of salt.

No regrets, moving on.

Print has its value, and designers are the ones who bring the glory to it; marketing people bring the justification to spend money from their budget; consumers respond, are measured; and so, the cycle repeats.

Few methods of visual display ever go away. As for PRINT 19, it was time to turn the dog-eared page and read the next chapter. No regrets. Microphone off.


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