When Xeikon was born in 1988 the man who was to become one of the leading commentators on the graphic arts, was just warming up.
Andy Tribute had set up Attributes Consulting and was working with developers and publishing companies in Europe and the USA. A printer by training, Andy had been closely involved with the development of the Monotype LaserComp in the UK. This was the first digital typesetter that could set type a pixel at a time, instead of a character at a time, using a laser based imaging system. It was one of the earliest examples of direct high resolution digital output.
In 1986 Andy was working with Seybold Publications as European editor. From offices on the East and West coasts of America Seybold Publications published the Seybold Report on Publishing Systems, a highly respected bimonthly subscriber supported journal. The combination of consulting work and his writing for the Seybold organisation gave Andy priviledged access to new developments for graphics applications, from hardware such as the Apple Macintosh and output devices, through to software and programming languages such as Adobe PostScript and its clones.
Andy was definitely in the right place at the right time to see how digital technologies would reshape the foundations of digital media production. He understood how the trend to direct output would combine with the power of desktop computing: “Apple was fundamentally going to change how publishing was done”.
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Besides his involvement with desktop publishing and direct digital output, Andy was deeply immersed in the disruption of newspaper production. In Europe particularly single keying, which made it possible to create stories and layout pages without armies of hot metal typesetters, was bringing havoc to established practises, slashing prepress costs and production times. Andy was instrumental in the transition that allowed journalists to key in copy, do their own proofing and send their stories straight to subs for page layout. Efficient digital tools allowed production more time to produce separations and plates and get the presses rolling. Editions could be closed later and later, at first giving publishers more minutes and then more hours for late breaking stories. Today front pages can be changed in as little as ten minutes, before a conventional newspaper press starts running. Newspapers printed with digital presses such as the Jersey Evening Post, with its Kodak Prosper 6000P engines, have the scope to change pages on the fly throughout the run.
Knowledge, experience and ability
His consulting and writing gave Andy plenty of opportunity to appreciate what printers and publishers needed from technology. He had worked for Langton, a provider of support services for the Xerox 9700, a high end laser printer first produced in 1977, observing at first hand how it behaved in production. He understood what the technology had to do to support the new applications that printers such as Elanders in Sweden wanted to produce. Andy was also close to innovations from Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and other stars of the desktop publishing firmament. At drupa 1986 he was the only journalist covering the show using an Apple Mac to produce copy on the show floor.
In 1993 when Xeikon invited Andy to preview their DCH1 digital press he could see that this technology, announced before the Indigo E-Press, would revolutionise the graphics industry. He was working with both Indigo and Xeikon under nondisclosure agreements to evaluate their technologies, market viability and positioning. Writing in the Seybold Report he said of Xeikon’s DCH1 that "with the imminent prospect of faster computers to generate and process colour information, and a competitive market to encourage innovation and keep costs falling, the short run colour market is about to come into its own.” It took longer than we all thought, but Andy’s observation was spot on.