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Day 31 - Postscript

Level 18

In the very early 80's, a small team of developers at the XEROX Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) developed a new page description language and dubbed it Interpress. Like many innovations that were initially conceived at PARC, XEROX saw the value but failed to find a way to integrate it into their copier products in an economic way. And so, in 1982, two of the Interpress developers left PARC and started their own company, which they dubbed "Adobe", and from the ashes of Interpress the PostScript font system was born.

It is difficult to describe just how much of an impact a seemingly simple font system had on the computer industry at the time. You would have to imagine a world where, if you created a document yourself it would be limited to one of perhaps 4 typefaces. And by "typefaces" I mean almost any change at all to the type - the shape of the letters to be sure, but also size, italicization, etc. Four choices. If you were lucky enough to have one of the advanced IBM Selectric typewriters with the easily replaceable typehead.

Anything else - multiple font sizes, dropped-capitals, multiple typeface styles - was the sole purview of the "printer", a perennially ink-stained tradesman who plied their craft with equal parts ancient techniques (sheets of red film called rubylith, lead-based characters manually assembled on a block), mid-century mechanics (such as linotype systems) and modern technology (including Linotronic computers).

Postscript changed all of that. suddenly, for the price of a laser printer (which was still going to set you back $1,000 at the time, but still...) book-quality printing was possible.

Ironically, Postscript didn't have the effect on Adobe that the name implied. It wasn't a relatively minor end-note, sharing some ephemeral bit of slightly unrelated trivial. Postscript was, ironically, the start of something completely new - both for Adobe and the computer industry at large. Like so many of the truly revolutionary breakthroughs in IT, PostScript put power and control into the hands of all users.

Adobe remains one of the few companies that seems to be able to reinvent itself over and over, while retaining their core values. Having started off with font rendering, Adobe quickly leveraged that success by licensing and releasing various fonts to be used by the postscript system. As the computer industry matured, Adobe pivoted and developed Illustrator, a graphics design program. Building on that success, they released Photoshop a few years later. In 1993, Adobe returned to it's document rendering roots, but put a new spin on the idea by releasing it's PDF reader for free (the writer, of course, cost money). But the world of technology was changing, In 1991 they released Premier, a timeline-based video editing tool. Again, the world was changing, and through a series of acquisitions Adobe was able to change with it by releasing Dreamweaver, a web page editing suite.

My point in reviewing all of this history is to show that Adobe - unlike so many other tech companies - refuses to be defined by any of it's software products. They never settled for being "that company that created fonts". However, they also haven't forgotten their roots. If you look at the products developed internally and acquired, there is a through-line you can detect in all of them.

As modern IT professionals, there are a few lessons we can glean from all this.

The first is the perennial lesson that most of the XEROX PARC projects epitomize: XEROX had the vision to fund, create, and staff PARC but not the ability to see beyond their own copier-centric world view. PARC gave rise to technologies which shaped the IT industry for decades after: the GUI, WYSIWYG text editors, Interpress/Postscript, ethernet, object-oriented programming, cut-and-paste, fiber-optic networking, laser printers, the foundation of Unicode; not to mention folks who went on to found Pixar, GRID, Adobe, Alta-Vista, and SynOptics.

We cannot, as IT Professionals, afford to overlook radical ideas just because they don't fit into our world view. That goes for everything from a snippet of code to a choice of programming method to a platform.

The second lesson, as I stated earlier, is not to let our past limit our future. That is as true for our successes just as much as it is for our failures.

Finally, take a moment to appreciate an organization that is committed to remaining true to itself, while allowing and even embracing the possibility to grow, change, and improve. If we are able to bring that lesson to our work, discuss it with our families, and find ways to apply it to ourselves, how much better we all would be.

33 Comments

Postscript makes me look back and reflect on the things accomplished in 2017. 

At the beginning of 2017, I could not imagine the good fortune and perseverance needed to complete the year.

It started with a CISSP endorsement wrap up and the certificate arriving in the mail.  At the same time, I started my duties as a board member of a local security organization.  That was quickly followed by acceptance in the local FBI Citizens Academy. Learning about the FBI and their capabilities was time well spent.  Right after that class wrapped up, speaking engagements and cloud training kept me focused. 

I spoke at the local the BSides event and for three other organizations over the next nine months.

Attending the third ThwackCamp in person, the San Antonio SWUG and my first (ISC)2 Congress made my head spin.  Networking with these focused individuals on a similar career path was a highlight of the year. 

Later in the year, the cloud security training culminated in the passing the CCSKv3 from CSA and the (ISC)2 CCSP.  The CCSP endorsement wrapped up mid-December making me one of the first 1500 in the US with the certification(only 2500 certified in the world).

Finally, near the end of the year, I was elected to another security-focused board of directors.

During all of that, there was still family to attend to and work at the office. 

I like way 2017 wrapped up as a postscript and now look towards 2018.  What can you accomplish in the next twelve months?  I am setting my goals now and filling the calendar.

RT

P.S. I was always impressed with XEROX PARC.  When Robert Metcalfe was at PARC he invented Ethernet.  Back in the mid-1990's, I met Robert Metcalfe shook his hand and simply said, "Thank you."

MVP
MVP

A quick post because it's the end of the year and I'm taking a short break!

Interesting comment on what lessons to take on-board. I've gone through a lot of changes in my professional and personal life in the last year, some good, some not so good, but overall I think I'm in a good place with 2018 to be even better.

PS. A great month of community discussion and interaction! Happy New Year everyone!

Level 12

an additional statement or action that provides further information on or a sequel to something:

Level 12

What is a post script? How does it relate to a superscript? A dictionary should or should I say google will do the trick.

"And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make" -The Beatles

I don't really have anything substantive to add to today's word. Either because I am dried up creatively or because my brain is frozen solid right now. But since this is Postscript I will leave you all with this non sequitur. (I have been hanging on to this for the entire month waiting for an appropriate time to use it)

  For all my professional life people have asked me what my dream job is or what my career goals are. My canned answer has always been: "To sell bait on a pier in the Caribbean!" I always get cross-eyed looks. My reasoning is two-fold:

  1. I am a process and efficiency junkie. For me to be selling bait means that my ideal state has has been attained and the process/automation/rube goldberg machine is working flawlessly and requires no intervention on my part. I am just cashing checks.
  2. It means that I have finally rid myself of these unhealthy pursuits of material possessions and false idols. I've reached perfect balance. It can best be summed up in The Story of the Mexican Fisherman​. I've posted it below for convenience.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”  The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?” To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.” “But what then?” Asked the Mexican. The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR fellow Thwacksters! And may all that you hope for find its way to you....

Level 10

Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a postscript.

From Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Level 11

The second lesson, as I stated earlier, is not to let our past limit our future. That is as true for our successes just as much as it is for our failures.

adatole This is a lesson everyone needs to learn early in life as our successes and our failures are necessary teachers that help us move ahead in our journey.

P.S. Happy New Year to all the Thwacksters around the world! It has been a great pleasure having to share and at the same time, get knowledge from you all.

It's funny--PostScript printing brings no good memories of problems solved.  In fact, quite the opposite occurred when PS required new drivers, new skills & understanding, and when it cause multiple incompatibilities between systems.  Plenty of user confusion and complaints.

No, Postscript, to me, is that brief little comment below your signature on a letter, to include a brief note that you intended to include in the body of your letter--but now that it was all manually handwritten or typed out onto paper, was too hard to go back and insert it.  Not that there aren't folks who use P.S. at the end of electronic communications, too.

Don't bother searching for fun memes about PS--you'll find yourself staring at Sony PlayStation memes.

Level 14

I did a heap of training with SynOptics; what a great company they were and so forward thinking. It's such a shame that they, Sony BetaMax, Philips LaserDisk & they other revolutionary companies and products didn't make it through.

Happy New Year to you and all the Thwacksters.

Stop using Postscript!!  Bring back ESC codes!!

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Level 10

A woman seldom writes her mind, but in her postscripts ....Richard Steele

Level 15

We cannot, as IT Professionals, afford to overlook radical ideas just because they don't fit into our world view. That goes for everything from a snippet of code to a choice of programming method to a platform.

always.

I’ve seen the downturn of several promising ventures/ideas/companies because the leaders were resisting change as it didn’t come from an “approved” source. Office politics and hubris have no home in the world of advancement.

Level 12

Happy New Year everybody!

i-dont-always-print-but-when-i-do-i-use-postscript-drivers.jpg

Zack,

I have never understood the, "Not invented here." mindset. 

RT

Level 9

Thank you and have a happy new year!

MVP
MVP

Postscript like so many other standards have become "standards." yet in this industry there seems to never really be a "standard" for anything. There is always something that is currently the standard, but there is always a competeting tech that keeps the market disrupted.

For me that is part of the appeal of a free market society. Imagine a world run by a single source or even 2 or 3. How much innovation would there be? It's the competition and ability of the "little guy" to come along and disrupt that keeps this industry growing and changing as we all love so much.

Level 11

Image result for postscript

I remember buying my first laser printer [$1,500 back then] and HP LJ III. In order to print using Postscript I had to buy an add-on cartridge and plug it into an expansion slot. Not unlike those of the old cartridge type video games. That printer and computer server me well thru my graduate school and for years after that.

I used most of Adobe's software in their early days. I still remember using Illustrator on and doing vector based graphics on old Apple systems.

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On a completely non-technical note, I wonder sometimes what it would be like if we could use a postscript in life, not just in a letter. Imagine being able to communicate that thing you thought of minutes after the conversation was over. To tell that person you were sorry, to just explain what you meant better, to get the punch line of that joke right, or to simply say I love you. I have at times thought about that and acted as if that last moment in someone's presences was the last time I would see them ever, no chance for a postscript. When I do communicate my thoughts and feelings in that moment it can be scary. It has made some recipients feel awkward. I have no regrets on any of it, mostly feel good about having said it as it was all meant with sincere compassion.

P.S. "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

Level 10

For me, my late nan used to write us as children cards and letters that rambled on about mundanities, usually followed by a P.S., a P.P.S., a P.P.P.S, and a P.P.P.P.S.. I wish I was joking, but that's the average (she also wrapped presents and parcels in enough sellotape to be watertight, different story though.) In these she spoke her love for me and my family. So for me, as others have said... Postscripts may not have all the information, but are the real substance of a letter.

Level 14

I started working in IT in 1989 where networked PCs were still uncommon.  Lots of people were having issues printing.  They were getting pages of gibberish.  It was always people printing postscript files to PCL printers.  Jump forward 11 years and I was working at Xerox European Headquarters as a contractor.  I was still getting the same issue.  Xerox really didn't get postscript at all.

Postscript drivers are the worst for us.   Seems like those that have success use them and love them, we use basic print drivers to same me headache.  I centralize printing to copiers where i get .007 cents per page and use PCL6 drivers. 

Yea... that's never, ever, ever, ever... going to happen.  🙂

Your comment reminds me of the French concept of "the words on the staircase", where after leaving the house, you suddenly think of just the right words you wish you'd said during a minor argument.

"L'esprit de l'escalier" ("less-PREE duh less-CAL-ee-yay"):

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Level 9

I haven't been in IT that long to notice Postscript drivers, but I am a fan of Adobe.  I like setting up PDF's and not having to print anything out.

Level 14

Does anyone remember Kyocera's Express language? It was revolutionary. All commands started with a !R! and then there was just regular ASCII to describe anything. It would pass down a comms line to a printer without an esc dropping the circuit. Wow! Printing at a distance and without using a parallel port.

Level 18

I'm pretty sure that I have a memory of sitting in my dorm with a term paper due, and hacking together a printer driver on an Atari 800 for my kyocera dot matrix printer. It was simple enough to do that I - a theater major - was able to pull it off and get the paper printed and submitted on time.

Wow--Leon, that is SERIOUS Geekdom.  You never fail to impress.

You mean you never had to write a printer driver like controls for your BASIC or Fortran 77 code rschroeder​? [Sheds small tear as Fortran is marked as a misspelled word...] I used to have a book, yes something on printed paper with covers, that had tables of the escape sequences for various printers so you could code things like BOLD, STRIKE THROUGH, or CRLF?

The most primitive I had to use was CARDiac (CARDboard Illustrative Aid to Computation).  It was mechanical, didn't use electricity, had a manual buffer, etc.  I didn't much care for it, but that was back in something like 1970 or so--what can you expect from that kind of introductory tool?

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CARDboard Illustrative Aid to Computation - Wikipedia

Level 14

I used to program in Fortran and did my final year dissertation software at Uni in Pascal.  Good old days.

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Escape codes?  Zounds!

Paterson, NJ was once called "The Silk City" for all the manufacturing of rugs and fabrics. The Great Falls, had a significant drop which the factories used to power the looms. I got a tour of one of those factories still running in the 1970s. They had stacks and stacks of punch cards that controlled the looms which put the patterns into the rugs and other fabrics. They came out of one container, ran across the loom, typically over head, and then back down to another container where they folded back on themselves. You could start the whole thing over again by flipping the receiving card stack and put it back into the loom. All mechanical.

Paterson was doing this in the late 1770's and was such an economic force in the early US that it was considered as the possible northern US Capital, before D.C. was chosen.

I don't have any of my programs stored on paper tape roles anymore. I had a box of about a dozen them at one point. I never kept any of my Fortran punch cards, we went to terminals my sophomore year at college.

Level 13

Wow.  Blast from the past for sure.  Postscript turned out to be very handy for me because I worked with a bunch of creatives and prior to postscript we had to use Ventura or something similar to control typefaces and other printing details (kerning, line spacing, gutters, etc) and spent a fortune on hand coded fonts which came in specific sizes which had to be loaded on each machine.  Postscript cartridges in laser printers (i.e. Pacific Page) made it possible to get dozens of useful fonts and do most of the work in Wordperfect.  PCL and other printing languages just weren't up to the task at the time.  This was in the DOS days of course.