The PRINT 09 event is only a few weeks away. A lot of printers are asking if it will be worth a trip. Yes, it will. They should publish Bill Lamparter’s Must-see’um and Worth-a-look lists in advance so youknow what to expect. I think there will also be a few surprises.

Technology changes everything and PRINT shows are important showcases for technology that changes the printing industry. I have been to every PRINT event since they began in 1968. It is amazing to think how far we have come.

1. The computer

From the mainframe to the desktop to the palmtop, computer automation has come to the masses. We forget about minicomputers and their high cost and specialized software. The DEC PDP-8 had a 5 MB disk drive the size of a Maytag washer 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. Computers run the printing industry and you will be hard pressed (no pun) to find anything that does not have a computer running it.

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. Your press or digital printer is probably connected to your vendor for diagnostics. Your customers communicate with you and most jobs are delivered online.

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 than in the past. But digital printing will be everywhere, and new lasers have upped the resolution and the speed.

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 that people perform. Software now has a different name -- workflow, MIS, IT.

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.

6. 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.

9. Pagination

The creative originator has taken control of the printing process. Quark will be there extolling the virtues of their page makeup program. The last I heard is Adobe will not be there, which is very sad. Adobe helped to create the modern printing industry and PostScript and PDF play essential roles. Pagination programs 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.

10. 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.

11. Digital imaging

We can put marks on paper using a host of technologies. There will be a plethora of digital printers of all shapes and sizes, and inkjet will outnumber toner printers. Look for inkjet proofers, document printers, 4-up printers, wide format printers, industrial printers, label printers, addressing printers, and more.

12. 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 but they are important and lots of alternatives will be shown. PRINT 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.

When you arrive, check the seminar schedule and register for a few. Also grab Bill Lamparter’s Must-see’um and Worth-a-look list. It is usually being handed out near the entrance. There will be fewer parties than in the past, but more serious review of products.

See you at PRINT.