|A four-color Perfector like the one|
we dedicated on Easter 1976. Each
mound holds the plate to print a
different color. You could print full-
on one side of a sheet, or two colors
on both sides, finishing the job.
But the offset presses needed printing plates with images on them in order to transfer ink to paper. That's where Sr Frances came in (and Sr Helena, too, for a while). Sr Frances worked in "litho," a department that combined graphic design with the photography angle of offset printing. She took the galleys from the sisters in the photocomposition department (where they could type in two different typefaces without changing film reels!) and arranged them on the flat bed of a huge camera, covering them with a spotless glass plate and shooting the galleys. Then she had to develop the negatives in the darkroom, swishing them through pans of chemicals until they reached the right point and hurrying to "fix" the image in another bath of chemicals (called "fix"). Those negatives, in turn, were taped to a large orange sheet of flexible, opaque plastic, and a razor blade (the old fashioned kind) had to be wielded just right to cut away only enough plastic to reveal the reverse "page" on the negative (otherwise random lines would show up on the printed copy).
|Ink being transferred|
--plate to blanket to paper--on an offset press.
Litho was a complicated department. The orange sheets, called "flats," weren't the last step there. Sister Helena remembered her favorite step: The process involved laying the flat on another perfectly spotless glass plate and closing a vacuum sealing lid over it. The whole thing then rotated on its huge axis so that intense light could penetrate the empty parts of the negative and burn the words onto the actual metal plates that would get affixed to the presses. (Sr Frances commented how many cuts she got from the sharp edges of the plates.) From there, it was to the pressroom: The plates were fastened around cylinders on the press. Ink "stuck" to the burned-in image and was transferred to the rubbery "blanket" on another cylinder so that it would be picked up by the paper as it made its way through the machine.
Sister Helena also worked in Photocomp, the typesetting department where we had that first, enormous computer system (and the only air-conditioned space in the entire complex). Mistakes were time-consuming (not to mention costly!). But still, they had air-conditioning.
I missed all the exciting technology, being assigned to the shipping department. However, even in shipping there was one machine for me. I maintained the subscriber list for our Italian-language bulletin-missalette and for that I had to learn the noisy little "Addressograph" system, where I typed addresses on little metal cards. Every month I ran the stack of metal address plates through the machine to stamp labels through a kind of typewriter-ribbon process that could be heard throughout the building. (No one misses the Addressograph.)
What old-school technology do you remember--or wonder about?