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Printing Impressions-January 2005 Column
An Old Printer Looks Back

Another new year and, at my age, I feel the need to look back and reflect on an event and some people that shaped my business life and the printing industry.

In retrospect, I would have to say that the single most important event in the printing industry during my business career occurred more than 20 years ago. Often overlooked, the introduction of the Apple Macintosh personal computer and the Apple LaserWriter, along with Adobe PostScript and Aldus (later Adobe) PageMaker software, in my judgment, began the march to what was to become a revolutionary change in printing and publishing.

Actually, the Apple Macintosh—sans PostScript, LaserWriter and PageMaker—was introduced a year earlier in one of the most famous and startling commercials of all time. I remember it well.

Aired during the 1984 Super Bowl, the commercial produced more of a sensation (positive not negative) than the half-time show at last year's Super Bowl. And for good reason. Anyone who saw it can probably still vividly recall the eerie sci-fi setting with drone-like people obediently listening to their leader on a huge TV.

Suddenly a sleek-looking blonde women, chased by storm troopers, runs in and throws a sledge hammer through the screen. The commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, dramatically presented the Mac as the futuristic freedom-to-create tool as opposed to the blue-suited, drone-like world of the IBM PC.

Although there were other computer commercials aired during that 1984 Super Bowl (Alan Alda spoke for Atari computers), it was the Mac that was a watershed event. Creative types fell in love with a piece of hardware, beginning a romance that changed our industry. But in reality, as sexy as the Mac appeared, it wasn't a viable tool—at least not just yet.

A year later the Mac equipped with the first desktop publishing program, Aldus PageMaker, together with the Apple LaserWriter, set the forces in motion. And the key was the first usage of Adobe PostScript, which made it all possible.

Gridiron Memories
While I clearly remember the Super Bowl commercial and the subsequent introduction of the LaserWriter, Adobe PostScript and PageMaker, I can't say that I realized the true impact at that time. Like most printers, I probably was preoccupied trying to process a room full of mechanicals through a room full of offset strippers to produce a room full of stripped flats. Thus, this historic January 1984 introduction—which was the beginning of the end for mechanicals, stripped flats and strippers—was barely noticed by most printers.

Today I do realize the significance of January 1984 and, yes, I get all misty eyed when I think back on how this shaped our industry and helped build my printing and prepress company. But people are far more memorable than events. And I have known so many great people. So, while I am on my sentimental backwards journey, let me mention a few.

This year it will be 10 years since my father, Ray Waldman, passed away. He was responsible for putting ink in my veins after introducing me to the printing business. Printing was not exactly a top career consideration for most kids. Too bad, because it's a gratifying and rewarding business despite all of the frustrations. But most of all he was my best friend and I miss him every day.

When I think back on all his sterling qualities, one stands out above all others. He was a great listener. This is a quality few of us have, but many need to embrace. As the years go by I more fully grasp the multitude of benefits gained by listening.

Two years after my father died, Ed Sanderson passed away at only 47 years old. He was much more than one of my company's top salespeople. He was the consummate salesman who set an example for all to follow. Among his many sales talents, Ed was a master of the art of "damage control." When things went wrong—as they all too often do in our business—he embraced the problem as an opportunity to demonstrate to the customer his and the company's commitment to make things right.

Ed had cancer. We all believed he would defeat this foe, since he had always prevailed against the odds. One day he calmly told me that he had only a few months to live and wanted to select the salespeople who he felt could best handle his accounts. He also wanted me to write and deliver his eulogy. Obviously I was dumbstruck. About a month later I faced an extraordinarily emotional day that I had hoped wouldn't come.

As I stood on the pulpit in a packed church, I was amazed to see that almost all his customers were among the mourners. He had made himself a part of their businesses.

He loved his job and the customers he served. And they truly loved him back. Several weeks before he died he told me that he had no regrets, no blame and no anger because he was among the lucky who lived a great and rewarding life. Ed, you are always in my thoughts, and I'm the lucky one. You were like a brother to me.

I was also lucky to have had two great mentors who I could turn to when my business faced some tough decisions. They gave me a priceless gift—the benefit of their wisdom and experience.

One is Irvin Borowsky, the founder of North American Publishing Co. Irv built a company that publishes top-flight trade publications including this magazine, Printing Impressions, which for so many years has been the industry's leading publication. About 10 years ago Irv turned over North American to his very capable son Ned and, using much of his own money and all of his enormous energy, pursued his vision of trying to make our world better.

Liberty is the Focus
Among his many projects is the Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, a must-visit if you really want to learn about our nation's heritage of freedom, the wonderfully diverse society it has produced, and the great people who sacrificed so much to make it happen.

Irv has had a lasting impact on my life in many ways. I have known him for at least 30 years. For many of those years he served as a mentor to me. As busy as he was, and still is, he was always there to listen and give me sound, practical advice.

The other individual was Irv Kosloff, founder of Roosevelt Paper. Irv died in 1995, the same year his friend, my father, passed away. Irv was a brilliant entrepreneur with many innovative ideas. He built a large paper company and was responsible for giving Philadelphia the 76ers basketball team. He also was there for me when I needed him, with help and wise council. Today, the company is well run by his son Ted and grandson David. When I think of my father, I also fondly think of Irv.

I have to also make a special mention of my good friend for 25 years, Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of this magazine. I, and most of the industry, have always known about Mark's exemplary qualities as both a journalist and as a gentleman.

Last fall, Mark was recognized by his peers when he received the Tom McMillan award for Editorial Excellence. This award is presented to an editor or writer who exhibits the highest standards of journalistic integrity, professionalism and understanding of the industry, and who serves as a role model for other journalists. I concur. But most of all I am proud to count Mark as a longtime friend.

There are so many more. But the point of all this is the importance of surrounding yourself with good, smart people—and to listen to them.

As I look back, I can bear witness to the innovative spirit of the printing industry. But it's the people that I knew, now know, and will come to know that, for me, are the true riches of this industry. Even though it has been years since I owned my printing company, I am lucky that I can say "I am a printer."

Harry Waldman

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