This was the last day in the New York Times before the computers arrived


In 1978 the New York Times changed its wording with the arrival of computer equipment. Until then, the newspaper was printed using hot metal typography. This was the last and exciting day of a system that had revolutionized the environment in the past.

The visual piece is about the short film "Farewell – ETAOIN SHRDLU", Produced in 1978. The title," etaoin shrdlu ", is the linotype equivalent of" qwerty ". The first two columns of keys on these machines form those two words.

And is that the linotype, a machine invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1885, revolutionized newspapers to mechanize the process of composition of a text to be printed, in fact, it was for much of the twentieth century until the printing of lithography and offset the electronic composition came to replace it.

The use of the linotype worked in the following way: an operator selected a certain typographic character, and automatically the matrix or mold of the particular letter was free and left a deposit that was located at the top of the machine. This mold descended to a common center, where said letter, followed by others, formed the words and spacing of the text.

When a line formed by these matrices was completed, it automatically passed into a casting box, where a molten alloy composed of tin, lead and antimony entered and formed an ingot that constituted a line of printing characters.

Once the matrices had served as a mold, they were picked up and moved back to the upper receptacle from which they had initially emerged, automatically distributing them in the boxes that corresponded to them.

They were thus arranged once more to descend when pressing on the keyboard. In this way, the lines of printing characters were composed with molten metal until the entire original was finished.

Image: A completed linotype line (Wikimedia Commons)

By the way, some linotype machines included a reader of paper tapes, which made it possible for the text to be sent by means of a telegraphic line.

In the almost 30 minutes of video we appreciate how it was the day to day in the prestigious American newspaper through a system that at the end of the day would end its use: the composition of each word to shape the journalistic pieces in their columns A highly anticipated change, since it went from a few lines per minute to generate more than 1,000 lines in 60 seconds.

However, and to make it all a little more strange, the computer that replaced the linotype machines is so alien to the technology currently used that it is even a rarity. Law of life: the rise and fall of a technology replaced by another … that will also have the days numbered. [YouTube]