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History and a Historian

Allow us to enter a world of some 30 years ago

     The World of Computer

       Technology in printing

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    The spectrum of a modern world that can highlight and describe WW II can show itself in varied ways, such as in music, when you hear a Swedish power metal band Sabaton play Warsaw Uprising, or, it can come through in a book.  [Sabaton's piece (fight for freedom) has the reoccurring lyrics "voices from underground, whispers of freedom" is from an event that actually took place over 79 years ago.]


     The methods used in the publication of A Toast For You and Me, America Participation, Sacrifice and Victory used state of the art programs, for its time, many of you are not familiar with.  We had in word processing: WriteNow, WordStar, and Grammatik; archaic as can be imagined.   For page layout, I used PageMaker.  And, utilized Photoshop and both Illustrator and Freehand.  Adobe PageMaker (formerly Aldus)  has a superb indexing feature.  It is not sold on the market anymore, but I still use this powerful program.  The world since then has changed.


     Years ago, compared to today, the measures in computer hardware involved much slower speeds, SSCI connectivity which no one really uses today in day-to-day work, and when publishing something, involved steps that used time-consuming methods.  It was all to ensure an end result that was not only shareable, but that it involved high quality, or as I used to say, that it was “tops.”  The sharing canvas in those days, before the internet became what it is today, involved the printed media, like pamphlets and real books.  That was the way of sharing information for decades and decades.  Nothing else except by person to person talks, or movies.  We now, of course, have the internet.

       On the subject of the internet, this entire site uses rare color photographs, which are not colorized.  Coupled with obscure pieces of information makes this site awesome.  It must be noted the power of color is a rich aid in showing documents to the young.  To this, we find the panorama of today's contemporary digital power has become even more awesome.  Twenty-five years ago, the content and displays of the internet were, however, pretty primitive: the text, images, videos, URLs.  However, primitive or not, it allowed the first email message to be sent from outer space to Earth, in 1991 when the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis used a Macintosh Portable computer and AppleLink software.  The interchange between internet and book publishing were, nevertheless, in their beginning stages in the 1990s.  And, for this author’s first book, virtually nonexistent.



     We would like to relate some of the pioneering days that may bring a smile to you if you know computers.



       This is not to say we were in the Stone Age.  The computer hardware to create the first book was pretty advanced from what had been available in the 1980s.  Below is an image showing the computers of the old days versus the laptop and compact power of today.  An integral part of any computer art system was the large monitor.  In mathematics and algorithms you did not need a large monitor.


   Color photography in books in 1992 was rather like graduating from primary school, but it was a step in the right direction.  And, by the time of my first volume, technology had not only become the world's major boom industry, with novel items like Tiffs, Photoshop, TrueType fonts and desktop publishing courses, I found myself in the forefront of so many new innovations. There were many trips to seminars and Macworld Expos offered in this boom, with my brother and I traveling from Santa Monica and San Francisco to Chicago and NY in search of the best seminars.  The ad at the very top of this page is from the February 1996 issue MACWORLD, a periodical that was quite popular in the 1990s.  It showcases a product made by Daystar that was a way to make your workstation (computer) speed up when it worked on big digital picture files.  They claimed it ran faster than SGI computers, which were expensive suckers.


 There were other forms to obtain information.

 But, nothing topped the Macworld shows

   Everything in books had to still go the route of making plates of film, however.  It took a long time, in time and expense to produce a WW II history book with color photography compared to today.  Using imagesetter film with expensive Matchprint proofs was the normal route.   The internet and low-cost digitization was really in its infancy and we have come a long way since the early nineties, yet my Mac Ci was still faster than a lot of the portable Powerbooks of the era. 

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     If we go back to the first generation of color proofing systems that popped up in the early 1990s, we had 3M’s Matchprint.  Polychrome’s Chromeproof.  DPont’s Cromalin. If you were in a professional environment, you needed color proofs.   They were the rage in inkjet technologies for maintaining proof quality consistency and color reproduction accuracy for the printing industry, which included book publishing.

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       In terms of creating a new and different WW II history book, there had to be a novel facet to all this.

       Why?  Because WW II history had been around since 1945. 

       One early publication, for example, was a book printed right after the war called “U.S. Navy War Photographs” which when first released on the market, sold at a rate of a million copies a month, at 35 cents each.  Almost all of the photography had originally been taken in color by brave cameramen of the era.  Some names to remember who were in the forefront of the Second World War era were Bob Capa, Johnny Florea, John Ford, Captain Louis Hayward, Sergeant Louis R. Lowery, Luis Marden, Joe Rosenthal, Don Senick, Sergeant Robert T. Sand, Wayne Miller, Fenno Jacobs, Barrett Gallagher, Paul Dorsey, and the venerable Edward Steichen.  From the archives of Time-Life, we have Eliot Elisofon, Dimitri Kessel, Hugo Jaegar, and William Vandivert. 

       In further retrospect, it was sometime in the late 1970s, when I was still in school, that the publishing world was hit with the first WW II history books containing rare color, but, unfortunately most were not American.  Literally, I mean it. Published in that decade were the picture books originally printed in color and black and white in Nazi Germany from a magazine titled Signal which were released to the general public.  To a young man growing up who loved history, they were very interesting and fascinating.  The Signal editions seemed unique in that they possessed color photographs no other limited books had and were published in 25 languages with the final editions printed until the very end of the war.  Overall, they were propaganda of how great the Third Reich was, and in the beginning of the war they did seem unstoppable.  At the height of printing, 2,500,000 copies of each issue were published. 

      Throughout the years, followed various editions of Signal.  The British publishing industry shared their knowledge via the Imperial War Museum collections.  The 1970s and 1980s were a wonderful time for color photography of the WW II era.  Little did I know at that time, but America of the 1940s had also been shot in color.  I knew they existed, but thought in terms of limited production, as in the genre of Hollywood movies in color during the 1930s and early 1940s.  Upon further research, I learned that was not the case.

     To enter that market, had to involve some novel, catchy facet, and in the vibrancy of color, because the WW II history book genre was saturated with b-w.   Yet, when I first approached the big publishing houses to see if they would publish my books, they were either not interested in a newcomer or said sure but because the printing in color was still expensive, they wanted to center my project on b-w.  I said no way, the market is saturated with all that, and I don’t stand a chance to be recognized.

     So, I put on hold trying to publish my history of WW II, but that actually turned up to be fortunate, because the era of the late 1980s and early 1990s was the era when book publishing began to leave the old-fashion way of producing a book: in came the entrance of digital publishing and novel ways of proofing your manuscripts.  It was wild and wonderful, and the author was in the forefront of all this. 


      It was during this time that came the publication series of Time-Life sets on the Second World War, however they were mainly in b-w.  The narratives were excellent with masterful indexes. The picture books were big, 11.5 x 9.5.  The color photographs found in the volume Prelude To War (complete with the decadence of Berlin) for example had several color photos of night scenes of the Nazis never before seen by the general public.  That was novel then. 

       By the mid-1990s, we saw the publication of other books concentrating on the beauty of color photography, unlike the aforementioned Time-Life.  Examples that clearly led the list were the aviation books on WW II by authors Jeff L. Ethell and Roger A. Freeman.  I believe Ethell’s first two volumes were The History of Aircraft Nose Art,  191 pages, 1991 which was mainly on the art work that dotted WW II aircraft, and Fighter Command, 160 pages, 1991. In Fighter Command, WW II veteran Bob Sand added grace of history as numerous photos in the book are from his collection of pics he took while serving in England.  There Once Was a War, 1995 is one of my favorites for it shows the overall worldwide pictures in color, although some pics in the collection field are static.  Another favorite of mine is Flying the Hump, by Jeff Ethell and Don Downie, 1995, about the World War II Americans who flew over the Himalayan Mountains to aid China; over 1,300 Americans lost their lives.  Prime examples of Ethell's books can be found here at this link.  He had flown more than 150 different types of aircraft.  The books cited used the old-fashioned way of printing and were rather expensive.  They are primarily wonderful picture books. 


       The dynamic of color photography is shown in two streamliner train books, The American Streamliner Prewar Years, 176 pages, 1996, and The American Streamliner Postwar Years, 2001, 200 pages, both by the eminent team of Donald J. Hamburger and Carl R. Byron.  One of my other favorites in color and b-w is The American Passenger Train by Mike Schaffer, Joe Welsh, and Kevin Holland, which even takes you to Amtrak, complete with color postcards and train folders, 2001, 156 pages.  Since that era, everything today is published mainly in color, and usually via the digital way, from art books, cook books and every realm of industry, to passenger jets and ships.  But, the power of the printed press was shrinking and continues to shrink.


      My first volume was created as a hardcover commemorative, with 266 pages and a special Mylar cover.  It was mainly produced on an Apple Mac. MAC systems at that time were the top-of-the line workhorses, and the image service bureaus had the best.  At first all I could afford were 8 Megbytes of RAM.  Quad-speed drives were in the future.  Power MACS did not hit the market until around mid-decade.  CPU speed ran around 40MHz, the horse-and-buggy time.  By around 1996, speeds hit the 166MHz with a Pentium chip.  To make it run like a rocketship we bought external accelerator cards, and that is how I got my MAC to speed up.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Today’s (as of 2019) home computer power can hit top speeds at 3.4GHz with like some 700 million transistors.  MACS of the early 1990s era had between 2 and 3 million transistors. 


     My Hard Drive?  100Mb with big fat SCSI cables and an external CD drive, later upgraded to a CD-DVD (called a digital video disk, oooh wow), plus an 800 Mb data cartridge, later replaced with thermo-magneto technology for storage. I still have a SyQuest removable data cartridge (below).  


     The very first data cartridges were produced by IBM, came out in 1984 so I am told, and had a maximum capacity of 200Mb. Compare a SyQuest cartridge with a regular small USB Flash Drive of today and you see what a big difference. The tiny USB drive holds more.  



     Everything was PostScript 1 interpreter and I remember using a Mac computer (I had both a MAC Ci and MAC clone and a 286 PC).  The clone when it first came out was a big hit, and I bought a DayStar Digital MAC compatible around $2 grand with a cool tilting monitor--monitor made by Portrait Display Labs.  The tilting CRT monitor with 0.26-mm dot pitch itself cost $899.  The Pivot 1700 was big, looked just like this and it was beige with a special swivel base and had chrome.

  We used SCSI cables because our computer was SCSI-2 hard drive based. My MAC worked in 32-bit mode which was great for working with color pictures.  Many PC computers did not come out with 32-bit machines til around the year 2000.  Plug-and-play anything did not exist.  I did not need the internet to do my research.  There were many times when you tried to work on Photoshop and the computer told you not enough memory.  Rats, one had to start all over again. We had buttons on our MAC where we could “shift memory”.  How cool is that?  Or, how pioneering was that, if you want to say that.   USB technology was unveiled around 1995 and the rest is history. Back to 1944.  


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