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Compugraphic Linasec

Started by Mechanic, August 19, 2007, 06:18:15 AM

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Mechanic

Compugraphic is well known for its phototypesetters. However, Compugraphic's first real impact on the printing industry was when, in cooperation with Wang Laboratories, it developed the  Linasec I and II, the first general typesetting computers. These computers  produce justified tapes to drive automated Linotype machines. Because of Compugraphic's association with phototypesetting machines, many reports refer to the Linasec as a phototypesetter. I've just finished correcting one such report on Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Laboratories#Typesetters

During the 1960s I worked as an engineer with Canadian Linotype and one of my jobs was installing and servicing the Linasec computer. Unjustified papertape, referred to as "idiot" tape, was read into the machine. Justified papertape was produced on a Teletype BRPE punch at the rate of about a line a second, hence the name "Linasec." The Linasec had limited memory and could not hyphenate. When a word needed to be hyphenated, the word was stored in the memory and displayed on a video screen and the computer paused. Under the junction of each of the letters in the word was a button. Pressing the appropriate button, would hyphenate the word at that point and the computer would continue. Unfortunately I am unable to find any photographs of the Linasec.

I did my Linasec training in Boston. Each day when we came in the instructor was there and machine was up and running. The instructor would introduce problems which we had to diagnose and fix. There were service switches under machines covers, which we would use to isolate the machine's power so that we could replace circuit boards etc.

My first service call was to a newspaper in Northern Ontario. I walked into the room housing the Linasec and the machine was turned off. I had absolutely no idea where the main switch was located. It was illustrated on the circuit diagram, but its location was not. I asked the composing room forman, who was with me, if he would get the operator to demonstrate their problem. When the operator arrived I asked him to turn the machine on while I unpacked my tools. The operator reached under the display terminal table and turned on the machine. Thus I avoided looking like the input tape, an "idiot."

I had another call to Halifax Nova Scotia, where I found  the memory was at fault and would have to be replaced. I phoned the factory and they got one on the next plane. A couple of hours later I got a phone call from Canadian Customs. The conversation went something like this.

Customs, "Are you importing a Core Memory?" Me, "Yes." Customs "What is it?" Me, "it's computer memory." Customs "We have no listing Core Memory. Describe it to me." Me, "It's a lot of little magnets with wires wrapped around them." Customs "That doesn't help. What's this black box on the end?" Me "Oh, that's a transformer." Customs, " Good, I have a listing for transformers."

The Core Memory duly arrived with the paperwork.  Core Memory had been scratched out and replaced by, "One transformer."

George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA


Mechanic

I have been contacted by Rick Bensene who has a website that includes a history of Wang Laboratories, co-inventor of the Linasec.  He is looking for any photographs or documentation of the Linasec machines.

His website is http://oldcalculatormuseum.com
His email address is rick@bensene.com

Any help would be appreciated.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA

Dave Hughes

Interesting website.

It would be good to have a pic of one to add to the Linasec posts on here as well.

I've done a thorough search of the web and can't find one.
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Dan Williams

Wasn't Linasec a Mergenthaler product? Maybe not.

I checked out that Calculator Museum site. Wow. It is really cool.

The technology in 1972 was pretty darn advanced, according to the site. Calculators that could perform log, statistic and hyperbolic functions....for less than $5000. Wow.

I remember using an old Wang calculator in college. It had several hand held units with pixie tubes and these handheld devices were wired/tethered to a really big wall-mounted microprocessor. In 1979, it was a real anachronism (you could buy a pocket calculator for $50). They got rid of it before I graduated.

A microcomputer could do everything that all those old calculators, teletypsetters, fax machines and old phototypesetters could do combined. Can't make lead slugs, though.  8)

Jeff Zilles [jeffo]


My three penn'orth.

The Compugraphic Linasec would almost certainly been written up in the New Gadgets sections of the Printing Trade Periodicals.  The U.S. one that I best remember was The Inland Printer, later to be the Inland Printer / American Lithographer and now called American Printer.

I know that these people have bound volumes from day one in 1883 but am not aware of an electronic data base at their place that could be available to the public for research, nor of the existence of an archivist there available for research work.

However I do believe that the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) - Cary Collection - has now gathered together a complete set of IP's in digitized form as high quality scans. [I understand each page to be a 7 MB JPEG file]

These may not be indexed unless somebody has put in a great deal of work with an OCR-come-Indexing program which would probably have to be written specially for the job.

I have had a quick look but have not been able to find any access to these.   The curator of this collection a year ago was  David Pankow, whether he is still in the seat I do not know but the web address I had for the area 'cannot be displayed' !!

No joy but this may be a lead for someone closer to the source.

Also, if one could locate a sympathetic soul with a collection of mid 20th century IP's then the approximate date to seek for such an entry would be early 1963 – Time magazine had a news paragraph announcing the introduction of the unit, but as far as I can find, no picture, in mid January of that year.

So what I've found is all negative but the guff could help someone else find the elusive picture.

Jeffo



Dave Hughes

Good to see you back Jeff.

And as usual, a comprehensive, informative, well-researched post.  ;)
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Dave Hughes

John Henry said:

QuoteThere is a picture in Graphic Arts Procedures by R. Randolph Karch, Third Edition 1965, on page 339

Anyone got a copy of this book and able to scan the photogrqph in?
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Mechanic

Quote from: John Henry on September 02, 2007, 02:04:01 PM
The machine pictured in the Karch book is smaller than the one I recall, and may have been a variant of the one in the lab at RIT.

Compugraphic subsequently manufactured  the "Justape" which was a smaller version of the "Linasec".  I don't recall too much about "Justape" as Compugraphic had taken back from Mergenthaler the marketing, servicing, and installation of all the equipment  they manufactured.  Perhaps this is the machine pictured in the book.  Hopefully someone out there will have access to the book and can make a copy of the picture.

Thank you John Henry for taking the time to post this information to Metal Type.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA

Dave Hughes



The Linasec

Many thanks to John Henry for coming up with this elusive pic.

George, if you want to pass on details of this pic to Rick Bensene, here's the URL for him:
http://i181.photobucket.com/albums/x287/metaltype/linasec2.jpg
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Mechanic

We now have a photo of the LinasecII.  The only thing this appears to have in common with the Linasec is the photoelectric reader and Teletype BRPE paper tape punch. 


I hope that this may jog the memories of other members and guests to Metal Type and someone may come up with a photograph of the original Linasec.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA

Mechanic

On September 4, 2007 we were searching for a photo of a Compugraphic Linasec without success. Dave's posting for the JusTape Jr prompted me to go looking for a photo. Believe it or not I found one of the JusTape Jr and the Linasec.

Linasec
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ralf_herrmann/2513917736/

JusTape Jr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/firebrat/2699456716/

George - I've merged your post with the original messages - Admin
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA

Dave Hughes

Quite a complex looking machine!

Is the keyboard you can see the operator using a full keyboard, or just one to define line breaks and justification/hyphenation?
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Dave Hughes

And here it is, with kind permission of the author, the long-awaited Linasec pic:

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Mechanic

QuoteIs the keyboard you can see the operator using a full keyboard, or just one to define line breaks and justification/hyphenation?

The buttons are only to indicate word breaks. If the word could not be hyphenated you could could go back to the previous word space and the machine would insert thinspaces with the spacebands. The panel of switches to the right of the lady's hand was to adjust the display. Directly beside her on the left is the input tape reader. beside that is the BRPE tape punch, with the cover removed, which would make it very noisy. On the right hand end of the circuitboard cabinet, just above the desk is the matrix width table plug. This was changed to match the font being used.

The Linasec in the photograph must have had a heat problem, as the covers are also off the circuitboard rack, which is not normal.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA

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