The AIGA/NY Linotype event last night was fantastic. Much like the Linotype machine it was elusive, having to get to the Brooklyn Navy Yards and all, and required patience, only a few could see the machine at a time, and it paid off huge. Seeing the movie was fantastic and being able to immediately getting to hear for ourselves the music and witness the magic was unreal.
During the film there was a theme that caught my attention. When a Linotype operator flubbed something they would have to kill that slug of type and would flag it by running their fingers down the two first rows of keys. Not unlike QWERTY home row flubs like asdfasdf, the Lino era had ETAOIN SHRDLU, due to its clever keyboard configuration. The filmmakers were told of this strangely pronounceable and affectionate term and learned it actually made it into print on occasion. They cleverly searched some internet newspaper archives and lo and behold, it’s out there! I thought I’d be more clever and use Google Ngram to see the rise and fall of the Linotype but alas, the results were not very decisive.
The film is so wonderfully executed, giving life and character to a machine, investing viewers in its story and revealing the community of devotees from all walks, it’s a must-see for type-, history-, news-, and documentary buffs.
Big thanks to Doug Wilson & Jess Heugel for making and sharing such a great film, Davin Kuntze and Woodtype press for sharing their Linotype machine, lead, and incredible letterpress studio with us.