All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ham Radio Horizons: "Building the Fifty Watt Rig", Part 2.

We continue our Educational Review from the Eye of the Printer and Graphic Designer, who also just happens to be a Ham Radio Operator, and who happened to be part of the intended audience of these articles.  We will look at the writing style of the author, the graphics used, the general lay-out of the article and endure some commentary concerning the current state of technical writing from my personal perspective as a former corporate training writer, technical illustrator, and national training director for what was, during my tenure (if you can call anything at the corporate office level "tenure") the largest optical retailing company in the world.

As such . . . yeah, I got a lotta opinions.

Opine No. 1: why don't they write these sorts of articles anymore?  If ever a step by step, one-two-three mentoring piece was ever written that reached out from the pages, took the reader by the hand and actually not only walked him or her through the mechanical process of building a rig to be proud of, but also equipped said reader with the information to academically assess and determine the what and why-for's, this is probably the most exemplary article I have ever read to these ends.  If I still had my training writing team, and we were tasked to create an SOP manual for constructing a widget, this would be our model.  And yes, that is how training curriculii is written, gang.  We borrow examples and massage them.  We hire companies to fill our data banks, and we writers create the links that interconnect the data in such a way that instructs.  Bill Wildenhein, W8YFB (as of 1978) did a marvelous job doing this very thing.  Only, he didn't hire anyone to do anything.  This was his own baby from the get go, and we were fortunate that Mr. Tenney (Skip) had these installments published. 

So, here we go.

I did not see the artist's attribution in these articles, but whoever he or she was, my hat is in my hand.  These were a combination of freehand pen and ink illustration and genuine, old fashioned drafting board layout mechanical drawing.  Nothing was computer generated in this article.  And figure: it was printed in 1978.  Do you know what I was doing in the 70s besides being a novice?  Shooting artwork for a magazine, developing the negs, stripping and pasting and burning offset plates containing this artwork for a local area Orlando magazine (Orlando-land Magazine, to be precise.)  As such, I like to think I know what I am seeing.  This sort of lay-out is called a "duotone", used in magazine publication since the 19th century to great effect.  It makes the page interesting and inviting to read.  The nice thing is that the drawings just happen to be mechanically accurate! What a concept.  An artist that knows what's going on.

I am not a huge fan of the larger formatted magazines, which departed from the older journal sized "almanacs" that was universally used for such publications from the turn of the century up into the mid 1970s.  I believe QST was the first to change over to the large folio sized magazine around 1975.  All the others followed suit.  The smaller magazine was, to me, much more convenient on many levels.  They also seemed more personal, and actually, a bit more authorative.  Just me, I guess.  I grew up on 1930s Red Jacket QSTs and old S-9s that my elmers would dig out of their attics and give to me by the boxes in the 1970s.  I loved them.  I kept a lot of them.  In fact, they were the reasons why I even do these blog installments! Each one was a literary work.  And we can find a fascinating narrative of Ham Radio through the years by doing what we are going right here: reading them and getting a feel for the times, challenges, and technical environment of the average ham in the era in which any particular issue was printed.

Let's take another teckky look at this page: the photo.  It's called a "Half Tone".  The original photo, hopefully a high contrast glossy which photographs well and leaves a great negative, is reduced to dots.  Highlight dots and density dots.  The highlight dots are micro-fine, and appear in the white areas.  The smaller the dot, the whiter the white, but you must always have a dot in there, no matter how white the image field is!  This is how contrast is controlled, and what keeps the printed image from looking like a poor photocopy.  Same goes with the black areas: the density dot is actually a white dot created by the very large halftone dots that eclipse each other.  They space between them is white, from the paper it's printed on, and serves the same purpose as the very fine highlight dot: to balance contrast, and to keep the shaded areas from going full flood black, which looks awful in print....although I have seen this happen with some of the privately published computer printed magazines these days.  I cringe. Oddly enough, ER magazine does a fair job with their imagry, considering the shallow images they have to work with.  They do tend to flood their whites on their covers, but that might be because they use....or used to use....a coloured stock which does not do wonders for contrast.

Remember, would be magazine printers: Contrast.  The three big keys to good printed graphics are 1) - Contrast.  2) - Contrast , and 3) - Contrast.  But never flood your highlights or densities.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.  I can sleep now.

BTW, this is why I stay Letterpress.  And pen and ink renderings.  

The image on the above shown page is actually quite shallow, and the guy that shot the neg went to a 600 line screen to hold what detail he could.  And I say, he deserved a raise.  This was no computer evaluated half-tone, it was done by eye, by densitometer, and by skill.  Another reason why I like old publications.  

Another reason is because I love the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".  Watch it, fellow commercial dark-room rat!  (if you haven't already.)

Bill the Author lays down simple theory and a bit of math, once again, for the benefit of the reader to understand how and why they are metering the screen and grid of the final.  The approach is classical. "Ethics Rise from Dogma", which means before you task anyone to do anything, you first lay out why!  The Apostle Paul even wrote his Epistles following this paradigm!  Before he tasked the reader to any sort of behavour he laid down chapter after chapter with Doctrine, and provided a link with the word translated "Therefore".  It is a basic writing technique. One I see less and less of these days.

Can't find the meter that reads the scale you need in mA?  You don't have to.  Here, the author teaches the reader how a meter functions and how to build a resistance network based upon the meter's own metrics to indicate the desired scale you want!  Have you ever seen this sort of detail in a construction article before?  I mean, really!  That's why it took three installments to publish this piece!  And the odd thing: as of my last perusal, this article appears nowhere on line, which I think is a crime.  Well . . . it is, now.  As an Educational Review, but it's here, nonetheless.  If you really want this article to have and to hold, contact CQ magazine.  I think they bought out Ham Radio Report, the parent publisher for HRH.  They may have ALL six or so years of HRH.

On page 37, the author walks the the reader through the controls, following the same mode of communication.  Here is also where be begin to see more actual mechanical drawing, and some of this probably came from clip art.

Ever wonder why they call it "clip art"?  Well, glad you asked:

Technical Illustrators draw a lot, but we didn't draw everything.  There were some areas where a lot of repetition of imagery was required. There was really no need to redraw each and every arrow, circle, this thing or that.  Sometimes, people were needed to populate, say, a landscape scene.  We don't care who they are, we just need people.  At one time the engraver engraved each and every man, woman and child on the printed image . . .to be used for one run only!  Early on, when the photographic process began to be used in the 1870s, standardized images began to be cut and pasted into the artwork, and then shot for plating.  Such images were drawn, and later printed, on large sheets that could be easily cut and used in the past-up room.  The Paste up room is where each page of a magazine was laid out, the text on printed paper, the high contrast line are was oriented, &c.  The negatives were shot and "stripped" on a sheet of "goldenrod", UV-proof paper, and set up according to the "paste-up", and the plate for the page or pages were then "burned" and taken to the press-room.  So, repetitive images, normally small elements that feed the whole image, were "clipped" from a sheet and pasted in.  We do this today with clip art books, too.  So, I guess it's pretty obvious where the term comes from, but I thought I might engage in a bit of history as well.  That's why I write these pieces after all.

It also keeps this blog entry an Educational Review.  So, bear with me, ok?

These are pages 38 and 39, each containing what I believe to be a hand rendered bit of artwork.  If it indeed clip work from the paste up room, they had access to clip are that I did not have!  I think what they did was draw the shells, and one contact, which was then duplicated and then pasted all around.  Rapidograph touched up the seams.  We used to do this sort of thing for Orlando - land magazine as well.  I was not present for the printing of this magazine so I don't know for sure, but I do know what technology was available in 1978.  A lot of hand work went into these pages, trust me.  The illustration in the upper right of page 39 has a combination of hatch and stipple shading.  That baby was drawn by Rapidograph.  When I illustrated the training manual for Pearle Vision, Inc., I drew many of these detail images.  In fact, they were kinda fun to do once you got the pencil down.  Stippling is something that is rather cathartic to me.

What was described above is also true here as well.  These are not clip art inserts from the paste-up room, these are hand drawn images, likely executed with old school drafting ages.  The braiding of the coax shown on page 40 (left) is hand rendered.  All the cross hatching and stippling work was likewase drawn in either by Rapidograph pen or mapping pen.  Does anyone do this anymore??  I purposely shot these images such that they can be downloaded and enlarged so you can get the detail!  

You know?  Novices like me needed all the help we could get, and the more realistic the images are, the better chance we had at understanding what was going on!  This was why such lengths were taken in the day, by this publisher, to ensure great visual communication.  Even with our computerised illustrations today, I still detect a certain homogenization that serves to prevent such detail, even though we are capable of off-the-map detail.  Perhaps it's because the artists and designers did not grow up in a truly detailed hand rendered visual environment?  Who knows.  It costs to have excellent artwork made, perhaps that's part of the problem.  I might note that I am only illustrating on the side, and that for my own company, Paper Wren Press.  By profession, I am a Licensed Optician.  Huh . . . what does that say??

Here, we come to the end two pages.  Page 42 features another drawn image showing the critical components as real images of correct proportion.  The accompanying text describes the purpose for wiring these components as such. I can look at these drawings forever.  I might make mention of the tube sockets: there was something we did in the darkroom, which was simply laying a specific screen with a desired dot size over the negative.  This was not the same as half-toning, which indeed uses a dot screen, but the exposure is entirely different, and involves another process.  In screening, we just shot the image by wrote, through the screen.  This gave the effect of "tinting" or "graying" a solid area.  The same was done in the burning process, where we might expose a negative to the UV while burning a plate, with a transparency dot screen under the negative to achieve the same effect, only by direct burn to the plate.  These tube sockets were shaded in the same manner: not by hand, but by an equally arduous process, by screening.  Screening could be a nightmare in the stripping room where the negs are opaqued and laid out on the goldenrod for plating.

On last observation: page 43.  Yeah, Palomar paid for that add to appear on that page.  And it is fairly interesting from a graphics standpoint.  This is a duo-tone, with no screening, although I might have pushed for screening the colour in the actual product image.  See how sharply contrasting the red shading is in the product image?  They do that to add effect: it's a graphics way of underlining, or bold-facing.  To attract attention to a specific area.  I think it looks positively ugly, but hey....even when I did this professionally, the voice of the darkroom seldom was heard in the front room where such decisions were made.  We just bit our lips and did what the work order commanded.  Yeah....our lips bled a lot.

Well, here ya go.  Another installment and graphical assessment of a great and what I opine to be a Classic Article, from a very good author, printed in a very special Magazine, Ham Radio Horizons.

The last installment covering the last section, Part 3, will be forthcoming.  And folks, especially you hams so inclined: Novice Rig Round-up happens in February.  Go to our FaceBook Page for details if you'd like to participate, and possibly even build this very transmitter!!

73, es CUL - de wd4nka

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