This is of course a personal viewpoint, because I can not really know what being a Macintosh user means to anyone else but myself.
For me the beginning of my relationship with Apple Macintosh computers started in Bangkok about 25 years ago, when I needed a better way to communicate with a typesetter who kept making mistakes with my (English language) copy and my type layout instructions, for catalogs, brochures, flyers, and advertisements meant for reproduction in magazines and newspapers.
Typically (in those days) I would do a paste-up using original artwork and transfer type for the layout and then type out the smaller text for the typesetter on a typewriter (or occasionally write them out by longhand). There would always be misunderstandings and re-dos where a normal part of the business. The worst part was that mistakes would fairly often make it onto the final product.
Since I was working in Bangkok, Thailand at the time, it is of course understandable that mistakes would be made, none of the workers at the typesetter or the printer could actually read or write English, all they could do is try to follow my instructions and hope for the best.
Towards the end of 1985 I was on a flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok when I came across a Time (or Newsweek) magazine article on the new compact Hewlett Packard laser printer for use in a normal business environment. The article claimed that the laser printer could produce fairly high quality text (with a variety of fonts in the same document) with the aid of a personal computer. The price of this computer laser printer was under $5000, which was very high for personal computer use, but relatively low for the advertising and print industry.
This article changed my life forever, because I realized at that moment, that I could use this machine to solve most of my typesetting problems. I had just signed a contract with a toy manufacturer to produce the photography and artwork for their next catalog, so I had the budget for this device, which I estimated would cost me under $10,000 for the computer and laser printer.
Little did I know at the time, where this decision was going to lead me.
Once back in Bangkok, I visited the Hewlett Packard office (which was at that time still located on Patpong Road). Not only did Hewlett Packard not have a laser printer in stock, they did not even know what I was talking about. After I explained what I was looking for to them, they told me to try the IBM personal computer dealer just around the corner. They of course also did not have a laser printer, but they did understand why I would want one and made a rather strange suggestion (considering that I also wanted to buy an IBM PC to use with the laser printer).
The IBM people told me to go visit an Apple Computer dealer on the other side of Bangkok, that specialized in computer systems (Apple IIs) for the education market. Apparently a couple of guys at the Apple dealer were testing one of the new Macintosh computers with an Apple version of the Hewlett Packard laser printer, the LaserWriter. I told them I was not really interested in Apple computers (I was looking for an IBM solution), but they insisted that I should go to see for myself.
The next day I took the long trip to the other side of town, that may as well have been to the other side of the moon, because it turned my world completely upside down. Even though this was 1985, the scene was not so different from what you would witness today, a bunch of Asian guys sitting in front of computer screens playing games. I was not impressed but figured, what the hell I’m here might as well ask.
I told the guy who seemed to be in charge that I was looking to buy a laser printer that I could use with an IBM PC for creating rough type setting that my printer could follow. He told me straight off that I could not use the IBM PC for that and that I would have to buy a Macintosh.
I did not believe him but allowed him to demonstrate for me. What he showed me completely blew my mind. He had a program called Letraset Ready-Set-Go running on a 512K Macintosh and it did things that I was not aware of until that moment. Apparently it was possible to actually design pages on the computer and add graphics, as well as to control the type. He printed a page out on the LaserWriter from the Ready-Set-Go application and I was sold.
I still wanted to use an IBM PC though and told him that I would like to buy the LaserWriter from him but would continue to look for the software for an IBM PC. He told me that a new LaserWriter PLus would be coming out in a few months and that I should go visit the Apple distributor in Singapore, that he was only an Apple II dealer and was only testing the Macintosh, his Macintosh and LaserWriter were not for sale.
I was in a hurry to get my project started so I flew to Singapore and had meetings with both the Hewlett Packard and Apple distributors. The meeting with Hewlett Packard only confirmed what I had already found out in Bangkok, there was no IBM PC or Microsoft solution available yet for what I wanted to do.
Next stop, the Singapore Apple distributor.
Like all Apple distributors around the world at that time, the Singapore distributor was in the process of transitioning from being an Apple II computer distributor to becoming an Apple Macintosh computer distributor. There was no show room, just a few offices in a warehouse full of old Apple IIs and some brochures and posters featuring the new Macintosh hardware and software.
The managing director of the Apple Singapore Distributorship dealt with me himself and when he heard what I was planning, he filled me in on all the latest developments in what was by then being called the Desktop Publishing revolution.
He suggested that I wait another month and return to take delivery of the Macintosh Plus and LaserWriter Plus when they arrived. He also recommended that I buy Aldus Pagemaker for page layout and that I should see the Linotype distributor in Singapore to buy Adobe Linotype Postscript fonts from them, for matching the fonts in the high end Linotype Linotronic typesetting workstations and their high end laser typesetting machines.
Immediately another bell went off in my head, did he just say that I could use the same fonts from a high end laser typesetting machine with the Macintosh computer and LaserWriter? Yes he did, and the reason was that the Macintosh and LaserWriter used the same Postscript language and Postscrip engine to describe the fonts and to write them to normal paper at 300 dpi in the case of the LaserWriter and special photographic paper at over 1000 dpi in the case of the Linotype Linotronic laser typesetter.
My immediate question was, couldn’t I just go directly from the Macintosh to the Linotype Linotronic. The answer was that a few people around the world were experimenting with this, but that it was not yet a solution that was either endorsed or sold by Linotype. The Apple distributor suggested that I should start attending the Macworld conferences in San Francisco.
At this point I had yet to start actually using a Macintosh computer but my original plan for buying a computer and laser printer had escalated to building a new business around these devices. My first order from the Apple distributor in Singapore was now two Macintosh Plus computers, two external floppy drives (internal for system and application and the external for files), a LaserWriter Plus, Aldus Pagemaker, all the Apple Macintosh software available, and a library of very expensive Adobe Linotype Postscript fonts.
I put the computers and software in shoulder bags and the LaserWriter Plus in a large aluminum steamer trunk and flew them as accompanied baggage from Singapore to Bangkok. In those days I always carried a lot of camera and lighting equipment, as long as you flew business class, you often did not even have to pay overweight.
Welcome to Thailand, Desktop Publishing has arrived.
Arriving in Bangkok was a slightly different story, the customs officer asked me to open the steamer trunk and when he saw the LaserWriter, he immediately said, “close it” and asked me to pay him a hundred dollars. He of course did not know what it was, but it looked expensive and he did not want anyone else to get involved. This was a real good deal for me, so I quickly paid him and went on my way.
Once I got to my house it was like Christmas, I unwrapped everything, set it up on some tables and for the next month only left my studio to get something to eat. It was total immersion time and I taught myself how to make pages, brochures, books, etc. with the Macintosh Plus computer, LaerWriter Plus, and Aldus Pagemaker software. I should also mention the impact that MacPaint and MacDraw had on all of us at the time, they may seem really basic now, but at that time these applications were pure magic.
I never told anyone this at the time, but I had not only never touched a Macintosh before that day I set them up at my house, I had actually never worked with any computer previous to this and was getting very nervous about being left behind in the computer revolution that I knew was about to take over the world.
The Student becomes the teacher
As soon as I felt confident about demonstrating the Macintosh Plus computer, LaserWriter Plus and Aldus Pagemaker software, I called a few of my contacts in the Bangkok advertising industry to visit me at my studio. I know it is hard to imagine now, but everyone was basically stunned speechless and in some way did not actually believe what they were seeing with their own eyes.
A few of the printers in Bangkok had some very high end Linototype workstations and laser typesetters, but they were expensive, incredibly complicated and all run by highly trained technicians, who also had to be imported from Germany along with the equipment.
My client had become so enthused by my project at this point though, that he offered me the financing to set up a larger business. He had been reading the American business magazines and now realized the same thing that I did. The printing and advertising industry was about to be turned on it’s head and if we acted fast we could corner the market in Bangkok.
So off I ran to Singapore and bought another six Macintosh Plus computers and a second LaserWriter Plus. The Singapore distributor was so overjoyed, he made me an official Apple dealer for Bangkok. There was no Apple distributor in Thailand at the time, but there were a few Apple dealers, who were selling Apple II computers.
Since I now owned by far the largest stock of Macintosh computers in Thailand, the Singapore distributor actually suggested that I start thinking about becoming the Apple distributor for Thailand.
Not wanting to get ahead of myself, I decided to first open an Apple Macintosh dealership and training center on Patpong Road. At that time Patpong Road already had the bars, but it was also still very much a business street. My Apple dealership was in the KLM building, Hewlett Packard was just a few doors down the street, it was a good location.
The odd thing that happened though is that people did not come to us to buy computers, they wanted us to design and print something for them. So the next stage, which was setting up A3 CompuPrint, was not so much an invention that came from my mind, but a demand that came from my clients.
Next: A3 CompuPrint – DeskTop Publishing Service Bureau
To be continued ….