An interesting Chat...

When I got to spend an hour with a top editor who has been working with the newspaper for nearly 30 years!

When I left for The Hindu's office in Mount Road today, I was looking forward to being assigned to the section of the paper I had requested for - the S & T desk (Science and Technology section of the paper which appears in 2 pages of the daily every Thursday) I was to be assigned to the head of the desk - Dr Prasad, who apart from being the chief of the department also wrote articles himself for the section.

But when I arrived, I learnt that Dr Prasad was at a meeting and would be available in about an hour. I was wondering what to do, when Mr Mukund graciously offered to tell me about the technological history of the newspaper. I was most interested, especially as I was quite ignorant about printing technology!

Being a longstanding, top-level employee of The Hindu and having worked through all the "revolutions" personally, it was an opportunity not to be missed! But what made this session particularly interesting for me was that Mr Mukund was such a great speaker! His humility combined with his extensive knowledge and his great ability to lay out technical facts in a manner so easy to percieve, made this a memorable experience!

I would like to share with you what I learned:

The first ever prinitng technology to be invented is attributed to Johannes Gutenberg (Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with replaceable wooden/metal letters in 1436 ) This was the standard till almost the 20th century! The Hindu which started out in 1878, used this technology initially.

Then came the monotype and linotype. The original Monotype machine used 'hot metal' to form individual letters. But what was then considered "revolutionary" was the linotype. In contrast to the Monotype machine, the Linotype machine formed a complete line of type in one bar! This was more useful for quick printing and Mr Mukund iterated that there were several of these machines occupying a full level then in The Hindu's office building(installed from 1921- 1923)! The machines were big and employed thermal and electrical heating methods to keep the lead boiling hot. (Hence these are referred to as the 'hot type')

In the beginning of the 20th century, there were continual improvements being made - like using a typewriter style keyboard for entering the type. But editing was still a problem - if there was a mistake in a word, the entire line had to be redone and if the sentence ran into several lines, the entire paragraph had to be redone!

That was when The Hindu introduced VDT (Video Digital Technology) And to repeat, as Mr Mukund worded it beautifully, " The person who sat in the hot room, typing, could now sit in front of a terminal in an air conditioned environment!" What with the visual aids and the increased levels of personal comfort, the paper could now be even more productive!

I was, to be frank, amused to find out certain details - for example that The Hindu was the first Indian newspaper to print the editorial on the first page! Before that, it was traditional to have the first page dedicated completely to advertisements! The Hindu was already rising up to international styles and standards, as it was customary to have editorials printed on the first page in international dailies like The Tribune, etc.

When The Hindu started out, it operated initially only in Tamil Nadu. Later on, it moved on to Delhi, Banglore, Vishakapatnam, Thiruvananthapuram,etc. but all the printing was still done only in TN. So, The Hindu purchased its own aircrafts for the distribution of its papers - another first in India.

Later on, The Hindu also became the first newspaper in India to transmit by facsmille its copies to other printing centres.

While everyone was still gawking unbelievably at this 'too good to be true technology' there came the digital revolution! The Hindu was one of the first newspapers to operate in a completely computerized environment. In 1994, The Hindu purchased a software tailor-made to suit its specific needs. In 2005, it underwent the most comprehensive redesigning in the history of any Indian national newspaper to make the daily more reader friendly!

Overall, I learnt a lot about the printing history of this paper that boasts of 125+ years of tradition! It was a great experience.

And of course....

Thank You Mr Mukund!!

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