The Graph Expo event is just around the corner and talking about it in advance is like premature elucidation. They should publish Bill Lamparter’s Must-see’um and Worth-a-look lists in advance so we know what to expect. I think there will be a few surprises.

A while back Margie Dana had asked me to list the five technologies that changed the printing industry. Let’s see how they will affect what you encounter at the show.

These five general technologies changed the world.

1. The computer - From the mainframe to the desktop, computer automation was brought to the masses. We forget about the minicomputers and their high cost and specialized software. The DEC PDP-8 had a 5 MB disk drive the size of a Maytag that sold for $32,000. I throw away thumb drives with 20 MB and carry 4 GB around (is that a 4 GB thumb drive in your pocket?) Wander through the show and note the flat screens in use. The old CRTs are dead and gone.

2. Telecommunications - From the phone system to networks to wireless, we are all connected all the time. Most exhibitors will have wireless networks in their booths and McCormick Place has pricey wireless service (the Boston Convention Center wireless is free).

3. The laser - From blue and violet to thermal and YAG, we were able to create new imaging systems because of lasers. The laser made imagesetting, CTP, DI, and toner-based printing possible. There will be no film at the show and fewer CTPs and DIs than in the past. But digital printing will be everywhere.

4. Off-the shelf software - From layout to drawing to image processing, software has been modularized and commercialized. If you think about it, almost all the manual skills of the old printing industry are now shrinkwrapped. Color correction,imposition, trapping, and more are now programs, not jobs.

5. Digitization - Reducing the visual world to dots gave us new approaches to capturing and reproducing pages. PMT and CCD technology captured anything the eye could see and converted it into a form that could be manipulated, communicated, and integrated into print. The printing world today is all about spots, dots, and pixels.

The Graph Expo event is just around the corner and talking about it in advance is like premature elucidation.

But those five technologies are only half the story. They then made possible these five printing technologies

1. Digital photography - For color separation and image capture the scanner or digital camera dominate. A digital camera is just a scanner with a different kind of lens. I doubt that you will see many scanners at the show unless they are built into some multi-function copier/printers. But digital photography has changed the way we capture, store, manipulate, apply, and distribute imagery.

2. Pagination - The creative originator has taken control of the printing process. Adobe and Quark will be there extolling the virtues of their page makeup programs. Both have allowed graphic designers to translate their creative vision into print more effectively than ever before. Think back to hot metal and then photo mechanical pagination and you can see how far we have come.

3. Workflow - For automation that cut cost and increased productivity, the printing industry is thankful. Look for loads of workflow solutions from everyone and their sister, especially MIS systems for managing the printing business. I think the way workflow is demonstrated needs work -- standing and staring at a computer screen is neither comfortable nor informative. Most printers do not go to a show to buy a workflow; it usually comes with their CTP or digital printing system. JDF will be there in force -- but quietly working in the background as it should be.

4. Digital imaging - For film, plate, toner and inkjet imaging, we could put marks on paper using a host of technologies. Forget about film, but CTP will be there (from fewer firms than in the past). There will be a plethora of digital printers of all shapes and sizes.

5. The Internet - The Internet was responsible for integrating communication and connecting the world. Look for lots of Web2Print solutions. I would focus on any supplier that integrates the Internet into the printing enterprise. Print buyers today are Internet centric and printers that capitalize on the Web will be the winners.

I did not list printing presses or bindery systems (if it was 1460 I would list the press). Graph Expo is your only opportunity to see a wide array of presses and finishing systems in one place at one time and I expect that quite a few will be sold. I am seeing two or even three older presses being replaced by one new high-productivity press. Based on what will be introduced in terms of spot color technology, you may need a press with more units.

What do you think? Please send feedback to Frank by e-mailing him at [email protected]

Frank Romano has spent over 40 years in the printing and publishing industries. Many know him best as the editor of the International Paper Pocket Pal or from the hundreds of articles he has written for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East to Asia and Australia.

He is the author of over 44 books, including the 10,000-term Encyclopedia of Graphic Communications (with Richard Romano), the standard reference in the field. His books on QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, and PDF workflow were among the first in their fields. He has authored most of the books on digital printing. His latest book is the 800-page textbook for Moscow State University.

He has founded eight publications, serving as publisher or editor for TypeWorld/Electronic Publishing (which ended in its 30th year of publication), Computer Artist, Color Publishing, The Typographer, EP&P, and both the NCPA and PrintRIT Journals. His columns appear monthly in the Digital Printing Report. He is the editor of the EDSF Report.

Romano lectures extensively, having addressed virtually every club, association, group, and professional organization at one time or another. He is one of the industry's foremost keynote speakers.

He has consulted for major corporations, publishers, government, and other users of digital printing and publishing technology. He wrote the first report on on-demand digital printing in 1980 and ran the first conference on the subject in 1985. He has conceptualized many of the workflow and applications techniques of the industry and was the principal researcher on the landmark EDSF study, Printing in the Age of the Web and Beyond.

He has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Times of London, USA Today, Business Week, Forbes, and many other newspapers and publications, as well as on TV and radio. He has partnered with InfoTrends on strategic information for the printing industry.

He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.