Cold type inventerLouis Moyroud

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An electrical engineer, Moyroud worked for a subsidiary of International Telephone & Telegraph (now just “ITT”) in Lyon, France. In the early 1940s, Moyroud and a colleague, Rene Higonnet, visited a printer to see their processes, and were fascinated by the then-state-of-the-art typesetting technology: the Linotype machine, which was invented in the 1880s. The Linotype used molten lead to set “slugs” — column-width lines — of type, which were put together into hugely heavy racks used to make printing plates. Once the print job was completed, the slugs were melted again, to be cast into new type. “My dad always said they thought it was insane,” said Moyroud’s son, Patrick. “They saw the possibility of making the process electronic, replacing the metal with photography. So they started cobbling together typewriters, electronic relays, a photographic disc.”

Hot Lead: A lead type “slug” from a Linotype machine. This is how typesetting was done before computers came along. This one (which says “This is True®”) was created by a reader, who still runs a Linotype machine in his garage.

By 1946, Moyroud and Higonnet (who died in 1983), unveiled their replacement: the phototypesetter. The inventors brought their machine to the U.S. to further develop and market their idea. “Their work definitely revolutionized the printing industry,” says Rini Paiva, director of research at the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “And once the high cost of the initial machines came down there was a major reduction in the cost of printing as it became more efficient.” The phototypesetter led directly to digital typesetting as used today. Moyroud died June 28 at 96.

From This is True for 4 July 2010