Creating graphics for the Yellow Pages, 1970s-style

Paul Di Filippo says:

Thought you might like the video that we posted to the AT&T Tech Channel today. It's a 1977 film that highlights a new Bell Labs-developed system for building advertisements to publish in the Yellow Pages. While very crude by today's Photoshop/Illustrator/Fireworks/whatever standard, the scanner + dynamic design system was a huge leap forward for workers used to setting their own type and photos.

This is published in honor of the venerable Yellow Pages, which were sold to Cerberus Capital this week.

Also -- I love the music that accompanies this video.

Creating graphics for the Yellow Pages, 1970s-style



  1. It’s funny, the art of physically pasting up small town and university newspapers would last another 15 years past 1977 – and the new wave of computer-generated type and lay-out wouldn’t be perfected for another 16-18 years (see Photoshop and Pagemaker) after that. I love looking at old pasted up papers like the Berkeley Barb and (the most beautiful paper ever) The San Francisco Oracle – it’s nice to get type and photos all perfect and lined-up, but an independent publication always needs to have a spirit to it – this video shows how far off ATT was from that spirit. Anyway, the Yellow Pages weren’t meant to be pretty, only functional.

    1. I’m imagining this with the “Condescending Gene Wilder” image macro:

      “You hypothetically run a local company named “Sam’s auto tune-up”?

      Please, tell me all about how you would hire a major designer firm to do your ad.”

  2. I started using Aldus Pagemaker in ’86… only 8 years after this video was shot. Compared to paste-ups, it was a whole new ballgame.

  3. When I was a revolutionary, I spent many hours slicing up little pieces of text and waxing them down.  At least I got to tell people that I worked as a stripper.

    1. They are those useless 1,000 page books with phone numbers that get sent to you every year whether you like it or not.  I can’t wait for the day where it becomes too expensive to send these out for free.

    2. The last Yellow Pages I got (about a month ago) had listings for businesses that closed more than five years ago. FAIL.

  4. Now THAT’S a soundtrack! Compared the dainty “Apple” style music behind almost every commercial these days, the theme at 2:09 means business.

    1. I do. If I just want to resize a graphic or something, I can do it in Fireworks before Photoshop is finished booting up.

      1. What kind of setup/version are you running?

        Cs4 starts up on my 3+ year old desktop running XP in about 5 seconds.

  5. Old green analog display of that makeup! The very first laser imagesetter was made by Monotype and came out in 1976. The first bitmapped display was the Xerox star in 1981, with laser printers and a page description language that predated PostScript. All for too much money! I loved doing paste up in the old days and got very good at it. But I’m thankful I got a job at Linotype right before desktop publishing came around.

    1. The first bitmapped display was most certainly not the Xerox Star! It may well have been the first workstation to use the bitmap as its main user interface or fit into some such definition, but I’ve personally quite recently serviced an early-1970s VT-30 bitmap unit used in a flight simulator.

  6. Systems like this were so quickly outmoded by commodity computers. That is the triumph of the 1980s. Specialized systems were replicated by commercial software and peripherals, and off the shelf operating systems.

    In the late 1980s I used to paste up a community newspaper before I learned page layout software. The woman who set it for me ran a laser printer on an IBM system From her home. In a little over 10 years this million dollar system was as affordable as a car.

  7. Mmm, Cerberus. The folks that deftly ran Chrysler & GMAC Financial. What could possibly go wrong?

  8. Awesome video. But am I the only one who thinks the voiceover sounds like Asian correspondent Trisha Takanawa?

  9. That looks like some incredibly bad ergonomic design. I wonder how soon that woman developed neck and shoulder pain from having the monitor so high up…

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