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The Long and Winding Road …

Life can be very “who’d-have-thought”. Even before I received my matric results way back in the 80’s, I had 2 job offers lined up. One was the post office and the other at a big insurance company. I chose the insurance company, and one year into my employment I was bored of being a debit order clerk, and my future looked bleak, until that fateful internal memo passed my desk. The in-house printing department had an opening with the only requirements; English, Afrikaans and Typing.

Without hesitation or knowing the first thing about printing I went for the interview, crossed all my fingers (and toes) as anything would be more challenging and rewarding that cross-checking rows and rows of debit order transactions day in and day out, month after month! Well I got the job and that was the beginning of a path I would never have imagined for myself.

Come to think of it, that was also the first time I came face to face with a computer of any kind! We even had golf-ball typewriters which was fascinating to me. The big daddy in the department however was the Linotronic CRT computer. I had the privilege of being sent on a course to operate this monster. Luckily I took to all this “new” technology and aced the first course only to be sent on the advanced one as well. I forget her surname but Eve, all the way from the UK trained me. I will never forget how in-between sessions, the always impeccably dressed Eve would bemoan her broad size 9 foot and the difficulty in finding a smart, yet comfortable shoe! Funny the thinks one remember …

After a year of honing my new “craft” I felt stuck – I mean after a while you’ve mastered all the different type of forms an insurance company can possibly conjure up! My next job offer came from a repro house that we had dealings with. Here I could finally bring a little bit of my own creativity to the table as now I was typesetting letterheads, compliment slips, business cards, leaflets, booklets, etc. My love affair with the print industry was now truly cemented and there was no turning back. Talking about love affairs, it was at this very same repro house that I met my future husband – and 24 years later we are both still in the industry!

I must have worked here for about 1.5 years when a print company offered me an apprenticeship. I jumped at that opportunity without thinking twice! A few months later my not-quite-husband-yet man also started an apprenticeship at another repro house. By the way, his field was photolithographer. As a bit of background for those of you who don’t have a clue what I’m on about, let me explain.

Before the PC and Apple, us typesetters would get the wording and layout done (all in code mind you – no wysiwyg – eg. fonts, type size, spacing, run-around etc). The photolithographers would then take the typesetter’s bromides and paste it up on a light-table using a grid following the graphic designer’s specs (yip in those days the graphic designers still used pens and paper!). From here they would disappear into the dark-room to shoot the film (positive or negative) that would go to the printers. To think as little as a few years ago litho positives & negatives were still the norm, now it is mostly computer-to-plate technology (CTP).

Coming back to my trade … at that time, I was but one of 3 women students in the country! My official trade is actually called Compositing. In the entire college, based in Pinelands at the time, we were 3 students doing Compositing. That meant, no lecturer. All the learning material was still based on the lead-casting method with maybe 3 pages in my final year referring to computers! Fortunately the printer I worked for then still had 1 of these dinosaurs in operation, an old Ludlow.

Shortly after finishing my apprenticeship, my husband convinced his father to buy a PC and I went to work for his print brokerage firm. This was the first time I encountered a PC and had to apply my logic and experience in a major way. The learning curve was exhilarating to say the least. I started with PageMaker 3 and CorelDraw 2. PageMaker I aced on my own steam, but I found a tutor to teach me the basics in CorelDraw. At this same time, hubby’s boss bought an Apple Mac – an LC II. So he was learning QuarkXpress and Freehand. You can only imagine the “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better-and-vice-versa” arguments we had – classic Mac vs PC fued and “prove-it-scenarios”!

Many years later, when I was a work-from-home-mum my father-in-law helped me buy my first Mac. Well now there was no turning back! Bear in mind this was in the 90’s when cellphones and internet just started making waves in South Africa. Who still remembers Beltel from Telkom? That was the start of internet banking in SA, i’m sure. We had the Beltel modem and it was a natural progression to an internet modem, flip, to think this was only 15 years ago! The fastest thing on the internet then was IRC chat (my favourite entertainment) – I guess you can consider this the forefather of Facebook and Twitter?

In 1997 I registered www.women.co.za with noble intentions, many of which evolved into exactly what we have today. I got my site up, teaching myself web development as I went along. Started with PageMill 2 on the Mac. By this time I was no longer in-house, but a sales representative in the printing trade – a job I hate to this day! Don’t get me wrong, I love the interaction with people, sharing my knowledge, interpreting their needs and making it happen for them gives me great satisfaction, but there’s many sides to this job that is eating away at my soul.

The day-job eventually became so tiring that I manage to spend less and less time on my site and for many years it floated in cyberspace getting no attention from mother 🙂 Well this year I decided enough is enough. As it is such a huge task to bring her to glory again, I started by just adding my services. However as you will agree, it does not gel with the domain itself. In the months coming I will slowly shift the focus and make the site relevant. Like many of you will understand, if you don’t start something, it can easily lead to procrastination. This way it’s like a gnawing at the back of your mind about a job not done yet – or in the infamous words, and rather annoying words, of the internet: Still Under Construction …

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