Why ‘Hang A Pig’?

Why A Web Site?

First I'd like to give credit where credit is due. The idea of a site for the printing trade in Washington, D.C and the metro area was started by Richard “Dick” Grasso, it was called the GPO-HasBeens. Richard's web site is no longer being updated, so after I joined the Has-Been's group for breakfast in October 2013, I decided that I would attempt to reinvigorate the interest that a lot of people had for the Has-Been's site.

The mission of this site is to "document the story of the last generation of people and machines in the hot-metal printing era" The movable-type industry lasted from the 15th century through the 19th century when the Monotype and Linotype were invented, then through the 20th century.

As Bob Robb pointed out in his profile, hot metal printing has been consigned to the art world. Art has a way of enduring farther into the future more than an industrial function that relies on production efficiency against it's competition.

Why Hang A Pig?

When I first saw my first web site in 1994, I knew that some drastic changes were coming to the printing industry. And after getting my foot in the door of this technology, I thought about the language of printing and how it would be changed forever. Would we ever hear someone yelling beside a Linotype machine that “I‘m hanging a pig”. To those who’ve never heard that before the one yelling out that phrase was usually a Linotype operator or machinist hanging a lead bar over a melting pot of lead, so that the lead could be formed into lines-of-type.

Also, I knew that we would be the last generation that worked in what we called, hot-metal printing (HMP). With that distinction came responsibility to future generations. If we don’t document the terms that were used in print shops, who could authentically be able do it?

A Little History on How We got Here

Let's go back a little into the history of the migration from HMP to digital. The web wasn't the first stage of killing HMP it was just the final curtain in a long process that started with many companies producing photo-processing systems. At USGPO we used an in-house system based on Bell Codes, called, “Microcomp”. Then came the Apple Macintosh and the IBM PC clones. Publishing software produced for these systems were called desktop publishing systems (DPS) and the USGPO programmers ported Microcomp to the PC. The most popular DPS was Aldus Pagemaker. These products cut into the HMP to a point that we in the industry knew it was just a matter of time where there would be little or no HMP.

By now HMP was almost dead, but documents, flyers, newspapers, etc., still had to be printed and distributed to readers. The world-wide web was about to put in the Tercio de Muerte; in bull-fighting this is called the third death, where the bull is put to his actual death.

We, hot-metal printers, know that the transfer of the printing processes to computer generated images (CGI) not only took some smart people with the understanding of the new technology available, but also took an understanding of the history of the printing industry and it‘s processes. After all, they borrowed many of the industry terms and phrases, even if they used some of them incorrectly, like the word “font”".

With these thoughts in mind, I would like to hear from some of my fellow hot-metal printers with their experieces in the “trade”. What are some of the things that you heard around the hot-metal print shops that may never be uttered again? Even some stories about many of the characters that we came across over the years. I‘ll make a page for just those stories and if need be I‘ll make it so the stories can be posted directly from your web browser.

NOTE (10/19/2015): Since I first posted this in early 2014, we did get some very good career profiles and we posted them on this site. But, it's been a while since we've received a profile. Let's hear from you guys and gals, based on the number of obituaries that have been posted, tomorrow may be too late. Also, we've added 2 social media acounts for Hang A Pig, one on Facebook and the other on Twitter. Like and/or follow Hang A Pig, it's the best way to keep in touch. We've added a link at the top of each page to the social media accounts. There's also a link to register for Hang A Pig mass emailing news.

—Ben Lopez