Desktop Publishing Begins A Revolution


History of Desktop Publishing

How did it all begin and why? We will probably have to go to Xerox Parc in Palo Alto at the beginning of the 70s to figure when desktop publishing began. Xerox Parc started in 1969 by two scientist working at Xerox, Jack Goldman and George Pake, who wanted to get out from under the wing of upper-level management and start a second research lab on the West Coast. Palo Alto was chosen as the center of the new site.

If you were around at the time, you will remember all of the hype that Xerox Parc was raising with its new Smalltalk language as well as other technologies that basically were mind-blowing technologies. They seemed to be hush-hush to the public, except for a few hot links from within the lab to outsiders who were geeks and wanted to get in on the development of Smalltalk for computer music simulation.

Xerox and Xerox PARC

Within Xerox PARC, there was lots of technical documentation particular to these product developments which rarely got out, but it was being sent between scientists within the Xerox labs. The literature gave specific technical descriptions of the first developments of the laser printer, the early development of bitmap graphics, and other world-shattering technology.

The distance between the second research lab of Xerox and the upper-level management on the East Coast were so far apart that Xerox PARC wasn’t able to make their new developments worth any outside money by the administration on the East Coast and ultimately lost out on introducing these technologies to the general public. It was Jobs and Wozniak, working from a garage in Palo Alto, who took these technologies and made them available in their first computers. This was true but unfortunate for Xerox and Xerox PARC.

Steve Jobs and Apple

However, there was one bright kid on the West Coast who gravitated there. His name was Steve Jobs. He befriended the people at the Xerox PARC labs from down the street where he lived. It was there that Jobs was taken away with the computer mouse and the friendly interface which had come to be known as object-oriented and was the driving force behind Jobs NeXT computer within the decade. However, until then, Jobs used the ideas of the mouse and desktop printer, which Xerox PARC had developed, and used it in the first few years he came out with the Apple Lisa.

Everybody Is a Publisher

By the late 70s and early 80s, everyone had a Mac, a PC, and a desktop printer. The new technology had been taken from the labs, given a new interface with fancy fonts and bitmapped printing, and everyone was able to begin printing from home. Everyone and everybody was offering giveaways to attract customers to the new desktop revolution. It happened so fast and quickly.

Apple stole the market, which was sold primarily at university labs and to university student at their bookstores, but desktop publishing also got a big kick and a boost from K-12 schools which were given thousands of computers to help with education. Jobs was a big supporter of education and software developers were writing programs specifically for mathematicians who needed a computer platform to do serious math on their computers, as well as for the humanities.

Desktop Publishing 20 Years Later

The desktop revolution had begun, and after the universities and grade schools got hold of it, the revolution started to kick in at the home base. Parents and kids at home also wanted the technology to use for entertainment. Jobs was bringing in other media outlets to the Apple distribution network. Because the internet was also developing significantly at the time, Berners-Lee had recently invented the World Wide Web and hypertext. It was generally a very fruitful time for the web with education, desktop publishing, and the use of the computer to disseminate music and other types of media.

It seems like everyone has been carried along on a wave of innovations with new competing products, programs, communications, and media formats all rolled into one. It has ridden the crest of the tide on the tsunamic wave called the desktop publishing revolution. The revolution has continued, but now it has been translated to the smartphone and Wi-Fi networks which are beginning to connect the world through the Internet of Things.


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