Production-Level Duplicating

Mimeomania member David Kasprzak recently posted about his knowledge of 1970s mimeograph use. Reposted here (with changes for clarity) with his permission:

I get asked all the time, “How did printing companies use mimeographs?” My Grandfather’s old company started with offset presses, then added mimeographs from both A. B. Dick and Gestetner. In the beginning they had secretaries who typed stencils for local businesses’ printing jobs . Most of the work was bulletins, letters for mailing, and reports. Mimeographs were used daily, there were 6 going all day long printing various jobs.

Around the end of the 70s, data processing became the fad. Computers started flowing into the offices. Our office was no different, the word processor began to take hold. The older Varitypers and IBM Composers and mag card machines began to go silent.

A.B. Dick came out with continuous feed stencils. WordSTAR was the processing software of choice at that time. The copy was input into this program, then formatted for the pages. The fonts were chosen. The continuous feed stencils were loaded into the printer; only certain printers that had a bottom feed could be used, such as the GE Line Printer or the Qume printers. The special stencils came in a box of 250 – they didn’t have headers on them, and they were already interleaved with cushion sheets and backing papers. It was the backing paper that had the perforations for the tractor feeders. You could not use a machine that was friction feed as it put a lot of extra marks on the stencils as they passed through the machine.

A dummy copy was printed out before the stencil job was run, to check for errors and formatting. This mock-up copy was used to tell the final printing groups what stencils to use and where to paste in the electronic stencil images.

This was quite a production to do a small cookbook or corporate report, but it was easier than typing the stencils. You could not use electronic stencils for each page as it took too long and was at that time too expensive to use for every page.

Once the package was ready to print, the font wheel was inserted into the machine, stencils were loaded, and the job as printed.

When done, the work was inspected for perfection and then the whole package was sent to the prepress department for assembly, the stencils were torn apart and headers pasted into the masters.

Work for adding images was also done here. When ready it was sent to the press room for printing.

All stencils were filed for future use and reprints.

Sometimes the GE Printers were used for printing out spreadsheets and workbooks of financial nature, they worked better than the daisy wheel printers.

Wordstar was a great processor and did an excellent job at the time. This was all before windows came to be the software of choice – everything was done in DOS.

That is how it was done in the old times to speed up production.

Several commenters also posted about their experiences with other aspects of duplicating work. Check out the original post if you’re interested!

2 replies on “Production-Level Duplicating”

I knew programmers who wrote code in Wordstare. It was sooo much easier than typing in one line at a time in whatever database program was in use that month.

I still remember the smell of mimeo machine and duplicator ink and paper. Helped a group or two run off copies in the 1970’s and 1980’s. So much more stable than the thermal copies made on that paper that turned black after a few years, making the images invisible.

Hi Gordon, thanks for your comment! Indeed, thermal paper’s ubiquity today runs us into the same dilemma. It’s like vanishing ink.

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