A Very Brief History of Desktop Publishing

Our throwback of the week – It all started with cave paintings. Next came Gutenberg, then the Linotype machine. In the 20th century we’ve gone from the paste -up era to the digital page layout era in the blink of an eye. This short article is a look back at digital page makeup systems of the 1980’s era, in particular the Sigmagraph series systems built by Dainippon Screen based in Japan. Screen America is located in  Schaumburg Illinois.

The Sigmagraph 2000

One of the first digital page make-up systems was the Sigmagraph 2000 designed and built by Japan based Dainippon Screen. There is not a lot of information left in the Sigmagraph 2000.
It was slightly larger than the 6000, used older equipment but was a classic mainframe system. As a field tech, I installed and maintained all these behemoths.

The Sigmagraph 6000 Mark II

The Sigmagraph 6000 was the next generation mini-computer based on the Hewlett Packard 3000 series. The Sigmagraph 6000 was the last of the mainframe style page makeup and image processing systems, soon replaced by Scitech Systems desktop software and eventually Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and In-Design. The system used washing machine sized HP 7606 800Mb disk drives and Hitachi vacuum tape data storage. I installed the first rack mount 500Mb SCSI drive at Mel’s Litho in Chicago sometime in the late 1980’s. It was 19″ wide and as deep, but it was an amazing advance in technology.  Here is the full color Sigmagraph 6000 brochure from 1987 that I have kept on file all these years. You think I can finally throw it away now? If you worked with this system feel free to share your experience or this article.

1987 Sigmagraph 6000 Mark II Color Brochure

The Sigmagraph 3000

If memory serves, the Sigmagraph 3000 was a mid level system that came out as the 6000 and it’s massive equipment quickly became obsolete. It was basically half the hardware of the 6000 delivering more speed and customer focused on low price. Clear evidence of Moore’s law at work.

Fast Forward to 35 years…

Today we have at our fingertips extremely powerful image editing solutions that run on a laptop. Isn’t technology amazing?