Linotype: The Film — Goodness from the last Century


I can hardly wait for this upcoming doc on Linotype machines!

Follow the above link to watch the trailer, but it reallydoes not do justice to the clatter, racket and Rube Goldberg-ness of these once high-tech typesetting machines.

If you’ve never seen one in operation, it’s a sight to behold. Molten lead, type sliding down ramps levers, pulleys, chains OH MY!

To think that large newspapers used to need dozens of these to put out the daily miracle. It must have been quite the sight — I’ve only ever seen a single one in operation — and operated the controls under the eagle-eyed glare of a back-shop foreman.

If you ever get the opportunity to see this film, run, as the say, do not walk to the nearest screening!


01/19/2011 update: I recall that I once sat at a Linotype (that was off) because it had a handy chair. As I chatted with a friend I leaned on the keyboard. No great harm, right?

I thought that all of those depressed keys would reset themselves when the Beast was turned on. Boy was I ever WRONG.

The next morning the typesetter came in and fired up the Beast, there arose such a clatter I ran to see what was the matter.

Yup, you guessed it all the type came sliding out (or tried to come sliding out, at the same time. Curses from said typesetter followed and I never touched the thing again (without his supervision).

In case you didn’t know, to typing on a Linotype is not like typing on a computer keyboard, or even like a old, n0n-electric , manual typewriter.

It’s more like t(pause)h(pause)i(pause)s.Lots of airtime with your fingers. 


One thought on “Linotype: The Film — Goodness from the last Century

  1. My parents used to own a small, rubber-stamp manufacturing company from the late ’60s until the ’90s. They used a Linotype to set type for the stamps. You are so right, they are amazing machines: all cast iron with hundreds of moving parts all working in sync. The way the arm would come down and move the type through the machine was so elegant.I was raised to respect that machine. If we got caught messing with it, we were in big trouble. There were very few people who knew how to work on those machines. Not to mention the danger of having a pot of molten lead not out of a child’s reach.The Linotype was definitely something to behold.

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