Before Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh on January 24, 1984, Chronicles was put together the way most magazines were. Authors sent their typewritten manuscripts (with corrections often handwritten in pencil or ink) by mail to our editorial office. The manuscripts had to be retyped (incorporating the authors’ corrections) before they were edited, and after every round of editing. To lay out the magazine, the text had to be typeset into galley form, and then cut and pasted (with scissors and glue) onto the page, and waxed to hold everything in place (and hide the cut edges). The pages were sent to a prepress house, which tidied them up, inserted images and ads, and took pictures of the composed page (one piece of film for each color on the page). “Bluelines” (essentially mimeographed proofs) were created from those negatives and returned to our offices. Any necessary corrections to the bluelines entailed recomposing the entire page, shooting new film, and running new bluelines. When the bluelines were finally approved, the negatives were shipped to our printer, where they were transferred to printing plates. Any problems discovered by the printer on any of the plates required returning to square one on that plate. (And each plate contained either four or eight pages of the magazine, so a problem on one page affected several others as well.) The printer would provide the first hard copies in about ten business days after delivery of the final, problem-free negatives.
All of that began to change in 1984. The Macintosh’s graphical user interface allowed programmers to create a “WYSIWYG” environment—“What You See Is What You Get.” That, along with Apple’s LaserWriter printer (which accurately reproduced what you saw on screen), set the stage in 1985 for desktop publishing.
Today, authors send us their text as e-mail attachments (an innovative feature of Jobs’ NeXTSTEP operating system), mostly written in Microsoft Word (which made its first appearance as a WYSIWYG word processor when it was ported to the Macintosh in 1985). Many of our writers now own a Mac, but some still use a PC running Windows, which got its start as an imitation of the Macintosh operating system, bolted on top of MS-DOS.
Aaron Wolf imports the text directly into Adobe InDesign and exports it for editing onscreen in Adobe InCopy. Adobe’s first big break came in 1985, when Apple licensed Adobe’s PostScript language for use in the LaserWriter. Aaron and I edit each article twice onscreen (30-inch Apple Cinema Displays connected to Mac Pros), before Aaron sends the galleys (as PDFs, via e-mail) to each author. Aaron enters any corrections received from the author, Dr. Fleming, and proofreaders into InDesign. Along the way, he inserts images and ads directly into the layout. George McCartney, Jr., who provides many of our covers, creates them on a Mac and sends them through e-mail and the web.
After a final reading of page proofs and the entering of any last-minute corrections, we export each page as a separate PDF (perhaps ten minutes’ work total, the time it took to wax a couple of pages) and upload them through the internet to our printer in Michigan. The printer immediately provides a digital proof of the entire issue, and we approve it onscreen. It goes into production the very next morning, and the printer provides hard copies after four business days. The production process for a single issue has gone from almost three months to less than a month. And a reader near the top of the mailstream can now read words written as late as one week before the issue arrived at his house, compared with six weeks or more in 1984.