And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

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Tdarcos
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And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Tdarcos »

Given I've responded to Retroromper's AMA I decided I would turn the tables and do the same thing. So let's see if anyone wants to ask questions of me. Ask me anything!
"And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain."
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Tdarcos
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Tdarcos »

Tdarcos wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:45 am
Given I've responded to Retroromper's AMA I decided I would turn the tables and do the same thing. So let's see if anyone wants to ask questions of me. Ask me anything!
Okay, you asked for it!
  1. Are you gay, straight, or bi? (Or just skip this and answer #2&#3)
  2. Do you have/did you have a boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife?
  3. What was/is their name?
  4. Are you still with them?
  5. Were/Are they just someone to have fun with, or did you care about/love them?
  6. How old were/are they?
  7. How old are you?
  8. What did/do you do for a living, and if retired, when?
  9. What hobbies do you have?
  10. Have you ever made a video that you put on YouTube?
  11. If so, and you don't mind telling us, where can we find it?
  12. What famous or notable person that was/is alive during your lifetime did you wish you had met or wish you could meet?
  13. What famous person, real (but no longer alive) or fictional, would you have liked to meet if not in the previous answer?
  14. What's your favorite color?
  15. What's your favorite food?
  16. Do you have a favorite smell, and if so, of what?
  17. What's your favorite movie?
  18. Who's your favorite actor, actress, or both?
  19. What's your favorite book?
  20. Who's your favorite author?
  21. What's your favorite song?
  22. Who's/What's your favorite musical performer or group?
  23. What's a question you wish you had been asked, and if you choose, what is the answer?
  24. What one question would you ask me/someone else here?
"And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain."
- Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman

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Tdarcos
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Tdarcos »

Tdarcos wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:46 am
Okay, you asked for it!
  1. Are you gay, straight, or bi? Straight. I once was talking with a gay man I met professionally (I was notarizing a document for him) and I mentioned to him that it was obvious to me that sexual orientation is clearly genetic, he had no more "choice" to be attracted to men than I had to be attracted to women.
  2. Do you have/did you have a boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife? I had a girlfriend.
  3. What was/is their name? Geannie. Technically it was Norma Gene. That is not a misspelling, as her middle name was a tribute to her father.
  4. Are you still with them? it was back around 2000-2001, we broke up, very amicably. She died a few years later.
  5. Were/Are they just someone to have fun with, or did you care about/love them? I did not love her. I know that the person I really loved was my other friend Andrea, who, like everyone here except Ben, i never met her in person.
  6. How old were/are they? Geannie was somewhere in her 30s.
  7. How old are you? 59.
  8. What did/do you do for a living, and if retired, when? Computer programmer, I still do some programming but I retired due to disability in 2004. Andrea recommended I apply for disability.
  9. What hobbies do you have? reading, writing, making videos, eating.
  10. Have you ever made a video that you put on YouTube? Yes, over a dozen.
  11. If so, and you don't mind telling us, where can we find it? My channel is here.
  12. What famous or notable person that was/is alive during your lifetime did you wish you had met or wish you could meet? Dr. Richard Feynman, I happened to be at the Caltech bookstore when one of his books was out, but I didn't bother to try to see if he was there.
  13. What famous person, real (but no longer alive) or fictional, would you have liked to meet if not in the previous answer? Good question. I once dreamed I met Robert A. Heinlein and a few weeks ago I dreamed I met Mark twain, so I'm not sure if there is anyone else. Maybe Ayn Rand.
  14. What's your favorite color? Royal blue.
  15. What's your favorite food? That's hard to say. I think In-N-Out cheeseburgers were fantastic, but that was over 30 years ago. Maybe the so-called New Youk Style pizzas from Jerry's Subs & Pizza.
  16. Do you have a favorite smell, and if so, of what? Gasoline.
  17. What's your favorite movie? Hard to say, there have been many great films. I'd have to make a list. Possibly The Matrix or Starship Troopers, among others.
  18. Who's your favorite actor, actress, or both? Richard Burton for his role in The Medusa Touch.
  19. What's your favorite book? "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.
  20. Who's your favorite author? Robert A. Heinlein.
  21. What's your favorite song? I've always claimed Bob Welch's Sentimental Lady but I'm wondering if there might be a different one.
  22. Who's/What's your favorite musical performer or group? You sure ask hard questions! Maybe Fleetwood Mac, their song Everywhere blew me away when I first heard it.
  23. What's a question you wish you had been asked, and if you choose, what is the answer? Who is/was the most important person in your life? No question, my friend Andrea, who I had the privilege of knowing for 14 years. I loved her more than anything. The smartest person I've ever known, and probably smarter than me.
  24. What one question would you ask me/someone else here? What is your biggest regret? To anyone who wants to answer.
"And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain."
- Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman

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Billy Mays
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Billy Mays »

Do you ever wonder where your amputated leg is now? It has been a part of you for 59 years and now it is somewhere else, that has to be the weirdest thing about all of it.

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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by bryanb »

How long have your parents been deceased (if they are...I'm just guessing since you don't mention them much)? Did you get along with them while they were alive? Feel free to skip this one if it is in any way painful to answer.

Let's go back in time and imagine you're a young, fresh, budding programmer. You've got the job offer of a lifetime, but there's just one catch: you'll have to spend the next forty years of your career coding in only one programming language. However, you get to choose the language. Let's make this interesting and say you can only choose a language that actually existed when you started programming. Also, assume that your work won't be tied to just one industry or type of business and that you'll be expected to solve a wide variety of problems over the course of your career. What language do you choose? Would your choice today be the same as your choice would have been when you got your first programming job? Feel free to skip this one if it is in any way painful to answer.

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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey »

Actually, if the programming one is painful to answer I want him to answer it more.
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Casual Observer »

Well, i learned that the commander considers eating to be a hobby. Probably could have called that one based on his weight and starburst addiction. Also it sounds like he possibly huffed gasoline at some point.

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Tdarcos
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Tdarcos »

Billy Mays wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 10:58 am
Do you ever wonder where your amputated leg is now? It has been a part of you for 59 years and now it is somewhere else, that has to be the weirdest thing about all of it.
Since the leg was infected "I hope to christ" they incinerated it!

If it was handled properly, examination in a lab is OK, but once they are finished if samples were kept they are in Level 5 biohazard facility, If it was buried in a manner that would kill infection, fine.
"And if it snows that stretch down south won't ever stand the strain."
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Tdarcos »

bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:41 am
How long have your parents been deceased (if they are...I'm just guessing since you don't mention them much)?
My father died in 1972, my mother sometime in approximately 1998 or '99.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:41 am
Did you get along with them while they were alive? Feel free to skip this one if it is in any way painful to answer.
My parents broke up several times but never got divorced, but effectively were. I have heard about a few bad things it was said he did but I did not know about them when I was younger so I did not/do not have a bad impression of him.

My mother, however, was a professional Catholic, which means she used her religion and an expert knowledge of guilt (Catholics are big on guilt) to manipulate people. For several years before she died, when I was out of sight of her, when I'd speak to my brother about her, I'd make a motion with my two hands of racking a shotgun in her direction.

Her favorite line was to claim she didn't want to stay in the Washington, D.C. area and wanted to go back to California (specifically, Lobg Beach). One time I called her bluff, by saying I would arrange to pack her stuff and get her a bus ticket. Of course, she had no intention of going unless someone went with her.

One time I mentioned to her that I recognized that she was trying to manipulate me with guilt and I was not going to respond. In the very same conversation, she was so ingrained in using it that right after I said that, she tried to use guilt to manipulate me again. It was so blatant even my brother smiled, realizing what she had done.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:41 am
Let's go back in time and imagine you're a young, fresh, budding programmer. You've got the job offer of a lifetime, but there's just one catch: you'll have to spend the next forty years of your career coding in only one programming language. However, you get to choose the language. Let's make this interesting and say you can only choose a language that actually existed when you started programming. Also, assume that your work won't be tied to just one industry or type of business and that you'll be expected to solve a wide variety of problems over the course of your career. What language do you choose? Would your choice today be the same as your choice would have been when you got your first programming job? Feel free to skip this one if it is in any way painful to answer.
Most likely back when I would have started would have been perhaps 1980 which means the dominant language of business is, surprisingly the same now as it was then. COBOL on mainframes. COBOL would have remained dominant through at least 1990, perhaps even up until 1995.

Back then there were perhaps four or five major languages around. (1). Assembly language, which some shops used but it's specific to the machine you're running. (C mostly killed off assembly.) (2). Basic (in one form or another on non-DEC minicomputers) or DEC's Basic-Plus. (3). C (C++ was decades llater). (4) Cobol (some minicomputers and all mainframes). (5). Various non-procedural or specialized languages such as query systems, report creators, and CASE tools.

The only things left of these that are still around ar C and Cobol. We have added alternatives including dialects of C (like C++, Java and PHP) and scripting languages (Shell script, Perl, etc.) along with domain-specific languages (Erlang, Postscript, etc.) Some languages came and went.

C and C++ (and later Java) only became popular when non-business applications became the most common software being developed. Cobol (it stopped being all caps in the mid-90s) is an extremely popular language for developing business applications on mainframes because it has the tools necessary for handling them, built-in record processing, sort, built in report writer, and a great deal of machine independence.

My guess is, if you were able to look into the IT departments of the 20 largest US banks, all 20 of them are running their core applications (checking, savings, credit card, mortgage, payroll, accounts payable and billing) on IBM mainframes using COBOL programs that were running back in the 1970s. They will be using current technologies on web-based systems, but the back-end stuff will be Cobol.

Why Cobol? Because you don't risk the core operations of an organization with a half-trillion to a trillion dollars in assets to some new, not-well debugged systems running on PCs. You use systems that have been running 24/7 without interruption for decades, where the bugs have all been worked out. They also have better security and higher uptimes.

Your typical PC or server probably needs rebooting every week to at least once a month, especially if software is updated. Mainframes have reboot intervals measured in years, because all applications, and even the operating system, support the ability to be patched while the machine is running.

Where they need even higher reliability, they run a concept called "Parallel Sysplex" in which several mainframes look like one large computer, so if updates require a system to restart, they just restart each machine separately, ensure the changes took, then switch over and update the next one. These sort of enormous changes are at most the sort of thing that happens every couple of years.

I'll give you another educated guess: every huge data breach occurred because someone infiltrated not-well secured PC-based systems and used them to mine mainframe databases through the "middleware" (software connecting the PC-based severs to various mainframes.)

IBM now supports applications written in C/C++ for use on its CICS transaction system (a 1970s-style multi-job system for terminals and terminal equivalents). If you went to a major bank and used its ATM, the ATM's computer might be PC-based, but I can bet the process on the other end wasn't a PC-based server running Apache or some other Web server, it ran as a CICS transaction on a mainframe. That transaction was probably a Cobol program now, but it is possible as it becomes harder to find Cobol programmers that they will migrate to C, one small piece of their system at a time.
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Tdarcos
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

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Casual Observer wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 1:24 pm
Well, i learned that the commander considers eating to be a hobby. Probably could have called that one based on his weight and starburst addiction. Also it sounds like he possibly huffed gasoline at some point.
No, I never "huffed" gasoline in the sense of having some around me ao I could inhale it. I just liked the smell of it when I'd be passing a gas station. Even as a child I knew it was dangerous and something hazardous.
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by bryanb »

Tdarcos wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 7:25 pm
My father died in 1972, my mother sometime in approximately 1998 or '99.

My parents broke up several times but never got divorced, but effectively were. I have heard about a few bad things it was said he did but I did not know about them when I was younger so I did not/do not have a bad impression of him.
I'm really sorry to hear your father died when you were so young. That must have been tough.

I can relate to you hearing things about your dad after he was dead. In my case, my father died when I was well into adulthood so I could process things better, but I still wasn't expecting to hear he cheated on my mother before I was born, that their marriage barely survived the affair, and the borderline idyllic family home I thought I grew up in was actually seething with tension underneath the surface the whole time. To this day, I'm not sure I've totally processed it. Sometimes it seems like I must have had two fathers: one is this brilliant, caring man who was my hero and who was always there for me and his family, and the other is this cheating jerk who ruined my mother's life but never showed his face to me. People are complicated. Certain things do make more sense now, especially that time my grandmother tried to tell me about my dad's past with some girl. I was probably 13 or 14 at the time and I genuinely thought she had dementia and was off her rocker! I never even considered mentioning what she said to my parents at the time.

Were either of your parents into technology? My father introduced me to computers and was interested in all sorts of technology so I definitely inherited that interest from him. What I didn't inherit was his intuitive ability to fix things. I have to read instructions and even then I still largely feel like I'm winging it the whole time.
Tdarcos wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 7:25 pm
Most likely back when I would have started would have been perhaps 1980 which means the dominant language of business is, surprisingly the same now as it was then. COBOL on mainframes. COBOL would have remained dominant through at least 1990, perhaps even up until 1995.

Back then there were perhaps four or five major languages around. (1). Assembly language, which some shops used but it's specific to the machine you're running. (C mostly killed off assembly.) (2). Basic (in one form or another on non-DEC minicomputers) or DEC's Basic-Plus. (3). C (C++ was decades llater). (4) Cobol (some minicomputers and all mainframes). (5). Various non-procedural or specialized languages such as query systems, report creators, and CASE tools.
Was Pascal on your radar in the 80s? It's actually a little older than C, but it's one of the first languages that comes to my mind when I think of 80s programming. A lot of BBS software and BBS doors were written in Pascal, but overall I don't think it made huge inroads commercially and it's pretty much in stick a fork in it territory now.

I think COBOL has been unfairly maligned over the years. Sometimes it seems like its longevity is actually held against it which is crazy to me. If a program written in 1977 works perfectly fine in 2020, that's great! If the code is insecure or the program needs to be improved or updated in a way that would be difficult to do in COBOL, then by all means change things up. Still, let's not complain about something that continued to work as intended even as the world changed around it. I wish all software worked forever. Perhaps that should be the gold standard for software development, if you will.

COBOL's English-like syntax still seems modern to me. When people talk about no-code platforms, I often imagine a variant of COBOL which a non-coder could grasp just by typing inputs in natural language and seeing how the computer responds. Also, without COBOL syntax, I'm not sure Inform 7 would exist (OK, admittedly some text adventurers wouldn't regard that as entirely a bad thing).

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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

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bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
I'm really sorry to hear your father died when you were so young. That must have been tough.
Not really. He hadn't been around for years. I really didn't know him.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
Were either of your parents into technology?
My mother, no. My father was a printer, he worked on web presses for doing very large jobs. Which meant, in some cases, he would be able to bring home samples of his work. He worked for Moebius Printing Company in Milwaukee. One of their customers was Pillsbury. They contracted with the company to produce their annual cookbook that they either gave away for a small fee when you bought a certain number of their products or sold directly.

Well, anyway, if Pillsbury ordered 50,000 or 500,000 books (or sets if it was a multi-book set), the printer is not going to print exactly that many (remember, this was circa 1968 when the technology was based on linotype and rubber mat or steel plate printing.) Depending on how many pages have to print to calibrate the ink, the first one or two copies might be bad as ink properly calibrates on the page. Then, also, pages are not done individually, a book might be printed on a sheet containing 4, 8, 12, or even 16 pages. The pages are cut, inserted in order into the book, then stitched or glued together and a hard cover produced. Now, these machines are fast, paper is supplied on rolls and may run out or it uses a "dual-roll" system so it doesn't. It might be producing a book every 5 seconds. The machine will either run a few "test" or "proof copies" so they can be sure there are no errors, and some are also sent back to the customer for checking and approval.

So, once the full run is approved, the print is done on high-speed web presses. To make sure they have enough in case of accidents, damage, or failures, they might run, say, 1% more. On a run of 50,000 copies (or sets) that's as many as 500 extra copies (or sets). So, the printer keeps maybe 10 to show potential future customers of the work they can do, they send 2 copies (sets) to the Copyright Office in Washington, DC for copyright registration, they replace any damaged ones from the extras, and from any left, the employees can have them.

This was how we got a complete set of the Pillsbury cookbooks every year.

Apparently my father was very smart, and moved up at his company because he could figure out things. Had he been born later, or they had come out earlier, he'd probably have been in computers like I am.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
What I didn't inherit was his intuitive ability to fix things. I have to read instructions and even then I still largely feel like I'm winging it the whole time.
I know I got that from my father because programming came to me easily and I took to it very well. I've learned a number of programming languages through self-study.

Before that, when I was a kid I was curious about lots of things. I used to take apart telephones, and put them back together, and they still worked after I put them back.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
Tdarcos wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 7:25 pm
I would have started ... perhaps 1980... COBOL would have remained dominant through at least 1990, perhaps even up until 1995... there were perhaps... Assembly... Basic... C
Was Pascal on your radar in the 80s? It's actually a little older than C, but it's one of the first languages that comes to my mind when I think of 80s programming.
Absolutely! I still use it even now. After perhaps Basic (my first language) and FORTRAN, I was very good at Pascal but it never gained traction as a commercial language you could make a living using; I wrote more code using Visual Basic in my work than I ever did using Pascal, or Delphi.

The Free Pascal compiler is an open source object Pascal compiler that in terms of capacity I'd put it up against C++ for any application programming. I'd say that, when you include the Lazarus IDE - written using Free Pascal - and its application prototyping tools I would say that you could develop useful programs using it faster, with fewer bugs, and with less trouble understanding a piece of code six months down the road than you could with C++.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
A lot of BBS software and BBS doors were written in Pascal, but overall I don't think it made huge inroads commercially and it's pretty much in stick a fork in it territory now.
Free Pascal is still being updated and they do regular releases to fix bugs and improve performance. Look, let's say there are 10,000 people using it. That's quite a few people, but it's noise if we figure maybe a couple million (mostly male) people use Java or C/C++ to develop applications.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
I think COBOL has been unfairly maligned over the years.
Yes, it has. It suffers from , as TVTropes put it, "sesquipedalian loquaciousness" or excessive verbosity, such that you say
ADD OVERTIME-PAY TO GROSS-PAY GIVING NET-PAY.
as opposed to
net_pay := overtime_pay+gross_pay;
in Pascal, or the same using = instead of := in C.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
Sometimes it seems like its longevity is actually held against it which is crazy to me. If a program written in 1977 works perfectly fine in 2020, that's great!
According to Gartner, 19 of the 20 largest banks use IBM mainframes to run their data centers. That almost certainly means Cobol, and chances are, they could be running code that was, (obviously with modifications) not from 1977, but was originally written back in 1967. The method for calculating a transaction ledger for a checking or savings account, credit card or mortgage, hasn't changed since double-entry bookkeeping was invented in the 13th century. Yes, new features get added but if the core stuff works, and works reliably, it might not get changed.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
If the code is insecure or the program needs to be improved or updated in a way that would be difficult to do in COBOL, then by all means change things up. Still, let's not complain about something that continued to work as intended even as the world changed around it.
You can take an application program written for MVS on a 24-bit IBM 360/93 from 1967, set up the JCL and continue to run the unmodified binaries on a 32-bit 370/145 in 1970, a 4331 on OS/1 under VM in 1980, and a 64-bit z/System on zOS now, and it will still work. These computers have all had new machine instructions and the operating system has new features, but it's still backward compatible with software that ran as much as 50 years ago.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
I wish all software worked forever. Perhaps that should be the gold standard for software development, if you will.
Except that people have the pesky habit of wanting changes. As Randall Greaves said in Clerks, "This job would be great if we didn't have to deal with the fucking customers!"

Back in 1970, a bank would provide you a printed statement once a month, and you had to go to the bank to withdraw cash (or write a check) and to get your balance you either had to visit call your branch to find out your balance. In 1975 or so, you could go to an ATM at your bank 24/7 to get your balance or withdraw money. In 1980 you could move money from one account to another over the phone. In 1985, you could go to another bank's ATM if it was on your network. In 1990 you could call the bank 24/7 to ask a teller for assistance. In 1995 your ATM card has the Visa or Master Card logo and you could use it like a credit card. In 2005 you could use your bank's website to pay bills or transfer funds. In 2015 you could use your bank's mobile app to do all those things on your phone.

Every one of these, and other developments. required changes to existing programs, or new ones, to handle them. Software has to change because the demands we put on it have changed.
bryanb wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:42 pm
COBOL's English-like syntax still seems modern to me.
The latest release of Cobol adds new features including factories for support of object-oriented programming. It's only because Cobol was invented in America that we think of its language as natural. Because almost all programming languages were developed in America by Americans (Pascal and Lua being exceptions) they tend to seem normal to us. If the development of computers had started in France we might have all sorts of weird keywords for instructions written in those programming languages.
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey »

Can I get you to post on Caltrops again?
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Re: And now I'll do an Ask me Anything!

Post by Flack »

Tdarcos wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 8:16 am
(remember, this was circa 1968 when the technology was based on linotype and rubber mat or steel plate printing.)
For what it's worth, this type of printing is still used today.

Here is a video I shot at Oklahoma Graphics. The first person you see (exiting to the right of the shot) is my dad. He started there two years before I was born and worked there until they closed their doors in 2003. I also worked there for a period and am very familiar with rubber blankets, plates, and web presses.

"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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