Friday, October 30, 2015

Still Crazy After All These Years

You know what it is like. You've not seen them for ages - it must be all of ten years. The memory has faded like an old photograph left too long in the sun. And then you meet them by chance: kismet, fate ... call it what you will. As Paul Simon said: "we talked about some old times, and we drank ourselves some beers". And before you know it you have fallen head over heels in love again.

I know what you are going to say: it's the usual sad story of a more-than-middle aged man who is trying to recapture his youth. But the story is even sadder than that - it is a computer programme I have once again fallen in love with.

Years ago I produced magazines. For about twenty years (between the early 80s and the turn of the century) I churned out magazine after magazine - rackfuls of them. Don't get me wrong, I am not talking Time or The New Yorker or Playboy; I am referring to titles such as The European Trade Union Information Bulletin, Doncaster Europe Express, and infoBASE Europe Report - titles that didn't so much fly off the shelf but bellyflop into obscurity. For a significant period of my life, however, they helped to keep the wolf from the door and the beer cellar full. They were produced with the aid of what, in the late 1980s and 90s, was the cutting edge of Desk Top Publishing software - Aldus Pagemaker. For two decades, Pagemaker was my constant companion, the salt to my pepper, the carriage to my horse. Pagemaker and I got to know each other in almost intimate detail. We would celebrate milestones: the celebration we had when Pagemaker 3 became Pagemaker 4, and the birthday card Pagemaker produced my 40th birthday party. For a time, it was difficult to imagine what life without Pagemaker could possibly be like. And then ....

It is the old, old story; we just drifted apart. Pagemaker became tired, a little too set in its ways. I let my eye wander and allowed my mind to be attracted by new friends offering a glitzy new lifestyle. Desk Top Publishing became passé as the new super word processing programmes stole its ground. All of a sudden everyone loved Microsoft Word, a programme that boasted that it could do anything DTP programmes could do - with knobs on and on ice. By 2004 poor old Pagemaker had even been abandoned by its parents - Pagemaker 8 was never replaced and left to gather dust in some digital old folks home.

During the last ten or fifteen years I have occasionally thought of Pagemaker with a mixture of nostalgia and longing. It would usually be when I wrestled with Word or Pages, trying to get them to do something that used to be so easy back in the halcyon days of Pagemaker 3. There has even been the odd moment when, I must confess, I have looked Pagemaker up on Google to see if it was still around in any of its manifestations. I would find the occasional link to Adobe InDesign (a much posher and far more expensive cousin) but it was out of my league.

And then, by chance, the other day I met something calling itself Swift Publisher 4: and within minutes of trying it out I knew I had rediscovered a long lost friend. It may not be Pagemaker, but it is as close as I remember Pagemaker to be (and at a fraction of the cost). I can dream of publishing again, knowing that I have an intuitive friend to help me lay things out in an attractive and pleasing way. 

Ever since Swift Publisher and I talked about some old times and drank ourselves some beers, I have been someone with a new spring in my step. I now shave every morning and put a clean vest on once a week. The GLW keeps looking at me with a note of suspicion in her glance. Could it be that the old fool has found himself a new love? No dear, don't worry. It is not a new love, but an old one he has rediscovered.


  1. I loved working with Pagemaker, too. InDesign was too complicated for me to master. Thanks for sparking some good memories of an old friend.

  2. I, too, have fond memories of PageMaker. I was designing lots of brochures, flyers, and displays in the '80s and '90s, and PageMaker was my frequent companion. Yup, those were the days!

  3. I remember Pagemaker. I remember WordStar and Lotus and how I raged against the wind when that upstart Microsoft co-opted them and forced us all the learn how to use Word and Excel. I may have been the last person in the world to use Lotus; I gave it up only ten years ago.

  4. I used Microsoft Publisher...I can see where your new discovery makes a great page:)


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