On the lack of remembering PostScript

Once upon a time I had digitized my school records from the early 1990s. Because of the condition I live with I had entered school 3 years earlier than my peers. There was no public kindergarden at the time, though some students that had a very mild condition skeedaddied through the system at the price of other critical students.

As many kids in SPED would remember, their needs were reevaluated every 3 years (or so…depending on the student’s compliance.) Some of the evals were really lengthy, and apparently detailed and technical, of which could’ve been the reason why I am a walking stigma because of how others would perceive me.

The early days of my life is well documented, but the documentation itself looked very standard, but in reality it wasn’t. If a student was in SPED in the 1980s, their documentation would’ve either been typewritten or done on some electronic word processor (almost slipped with a “word pressed”!) In my early years, I actually was a student of the PC-culture, that is DOS and Intel machines.

All my paperwork looked like it was done on a fancy computer. In reality (except from the case manager and program manager – of which used Macintoshes) it was DOS and WordPerfect. I know on the SAU side, they had WordPerfect, some of the various evaluators may had used MS Word – for DOS.

Postscript, Originally for the Macintosh, exploited for the rest of the world.

Postscript was an idea originating at Apple right after the release of the Macintosh; that came with type-setting fonts (that was used in print shops). At this time “font” was considered be unknown in the design world. Apple’s problem was their infamous ImageWriter printer, that had the ability to print in fancy typefaces, but not as smooth as a laser print. On an Apple II for an example it could only print in a plain monospace type like it came off a word processor or typewriter. A “word processor” at the time was basically an automatic typewriter with “memory” to store the text on some similar medium to PCs.

Apple abandoned the project and teamed up with a startup called Adobe to create a standard that would replicate typesetting typefaces into modern fonts. The idea was that the font that was used on say a Macintosh would show how the font would be printed with an acronym known as WYSIWYG or What You See Is What You Get. Real as possible.

In order to make it look very WYSIWYG; a printer had to be invented, so in 1985, Apple introduced the LaserWriter printer. The LaserWriter looked like an entry level copier, though it was just a printer. How the LaserWriter really worked was what was literally under the hood. Under the hood had memory modules that stored the typesetting face in a ROM chip, and the printer would receive the cues from the Macintosh to print the font that matched the wishes in the document, at that point it would print it out as if it was some bestselling book!

This lead into Adobe’s concept of PostScript and was part of the technical lexicon for decades after.

PS’ PC Usage

PostScript in real-world use was in the industry of “standards” and group think of Personal Computing. Gawd forbid you make your own standard, and you fall into Politically Incorrect way of using tech. (get it? read some of my older posts on IT and Political Correctness.)

PCL, PS’ evil Cousin

HP developed a competitor to PostScript, that same year in 1984. Called the Printer Control Language, basically did the same thing, the app or program would tell the printer what font to map to print it out to look like it was some typesetting document. To save the technical stuff aside, for most general professionals, PCL was better than PostScript, when PCL became more popular, especially in the HP printing world; part because HP made it easier to apply their blueprint into commercial operating systems like Windows, UNIX and Mac OS and Mac OS X. For serious design professionals, PostScript still won.

So in the example of 3 year evals, the cheap professionals, that could’ve afford a PowerBook but was too cheap because that’s what lefties and affluent people like to be; would use the PC, then on the final copy, tell DOS Word to print in Times New Roman, and then the printer would print that way and make it look like it was done on a GUI. But how did it do that? Again, it’s all about PostScript and then beauty of hardware and software. While clones like HP started doing this by this point, it’s all about the ROM and what was in there to choose from. Also, PostScript had to separate fonts that contained italics and boldface, because once upon a time fonts with various emphasis had to be separate.  You could theoretically have “100 fonts” but in reality you may have 33 unique fonts to choose from and have 3 variants.

PostScript, like Macromedia Flash became passé by the end of the century. Most printers by this point took whatever was on the screen for all intensive purposes and convert it into a printable medium. By 2000, no printer needed a cartridge for fonts, or have it burned into a ROM…. however PostScript still has some relevance if…

  • you have a command line software that has only plain text and you want it to look legible
  • a computer or a software package that needs the printer to do the job (basically legacy apps or operating systems)
  • You have mainframes or mainframe like systems, etc.

In the early years of computer networking here, I didn’t know the importance of PCL over PostScript. Why in modern times for the average professional outside of the design world?

  • PCL can read anything that’s on your computer (virtually)
  • PCL’s newer standards support graphics, whereas PostScript is mostly for fonts
  • PostScript takes more time to print, for the print server to interpret then tell it to the printer.
  • If your networked LaserJet supports PCL, just save yourself the trouble when installing the driver on your print server and
  • Adobe has always been and still will be a joke even to design professionals.