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    "Let's start at the very beginning ..."
    by Stephen A. Singer ©1997 All Rights Reserved

    One of the things I have learned to do during my 20+ years in the paper and
    printing industry ... is to take information which is "common place" in one
    industry and move it to another.  It is this sharing of information which is
    really the basis for creative thought.  Hopefully I will be able to shed
    some light on why some things work and why others don't ... and maybe we'll
    all learn some new things along the way.
    My goal is to "keep it simple" since we are all newbees when it comes to
    shaping --- what I like to refer to as --- the "Computer Crafts" industry.
    Since we all have different levels of knowledge, let's level the field
    starting with some basic information as it relates to what we know about
    computer printers. Once we understand how printers work, we can then
    investigate how different media (paper) reacts in different printers.
    Dot-Matrix printers --- also known as continuous, impact printers --- are
    the printers that use "continuous paper" -- the paper with the 1/2" margins
    and "tractor-feed" line holes.  The advent of the dot matrix printer really
    opened the world to printing graphic images using computers.  Prior to "dot-
    matrix" there were "character printers."  These printers printed one
    character at a time, much like a typewriter. Dot Matrix printers formed
    letters using a matrix of dots -- remember hearing the terms 9 pin and 24
    pin printers.  Characters were created using a matrix of 9 and then 24 dots.
    The pins would strike a ribbon and ink would transfer to the sheet of paper
    which was advanced using a "tractor-feed" system. Paper would normally be
    advanced by 1/6th of an inch or 1/8th of an inch at a time ... thus the
    terms 6 lpi (lines per inch) and 8 lpi." This information is ancient history
    -- at least 15 years old !
    Laser Printers advanced the science of printing and opened a whole new world
    when it came to printing graphics.  Instead of printing one line at a time,
    Lasers -- also referred to as "page printers" -- print an entire page at a
    time.  The computer configures an entire page of information, words and
    pictures -- and for lack of a better way of saying it -- drops the entire
    page of information onto the paper.  This is done using toner which is
    bonded to the surface of the paper using heat.  Actually, most laser
    printers can be thought of as intelligent photocopiers.  Photo copiers (and
    this product has undergone many changes over the years) actually take a
    picture of an image, and then "drops the image" on a sheet of paper.  A
    Laser printer uses a computer to compile the information, forming an
    electronic picture.  The image is printed using toner. You can think of toner
    like fine grains of opaque sand.  This sand, if you will, sticks to the surface
    of the paper and in many cases can actually flakes off when the sheet is
    folded or scratched.  Because images are grains of toner, much finer images
    could be printed using laser printers as compared with dot-matrix printers.
    Looking to add color -- toner is still black for the most part -- a product
    called Laser color (there are a number of trade names) was developed.  This
    colored "easy release" foil took advantage of the fact that toner, when hot,
    is sticky.  Thus, when this foil -- a metallic compound affixed to a mylar
    backing -- was placed next to the toner ... heated by running a sheet
    through the Laser Printer (or copier) a second time, the coating from the
    LaserColor would stick and transfer to the toner providing color.
    A company called "Paper Direct" did a fantastic job promoting this foil for
    use with laser printers.
    Obviously, laser printer technology continues to evolve.  What is important
    to remember is that lasers use opaque toner which is bonded to the surface
    of the sheet of paper (or material) which is mechanically forced through the
    printer one sheet at a time.  While newer than "dot-matrix," the popularity
    of Laser Technology is "old hat" ...  at least 10 years old!  (and you ask
    why people are having a problem keeping up with the changes in computer
    technology --- you have got to run just to stay even!)
    Enter Ink Jet Technology --- Ink Jet Printers (Bubble Jet Printers -- a
    trade name owned by Canon) use a spray of ink to create images.  Ink is
    actually heated until it bubbles and forced through a tiny opening and
    sprayed onto a sheet of paper.  The ink dries on the paper and you have an
    image.  This technology (color) really burst onto the computer scene in
    1990-1991 with the introduction of the HP500C.  The technology has been
    advanced at lightning speed thanks to the various printer manufacturers and
    their desire to capitalize on the vast amount of ink consumed when using
    these printers. For this reason, printer companies learned (over the past two
    years) that by giving away software with their printers --- software that uses
    ink and paper --- profits would increase.  This is the modern version of "give
    away the razor and sell the blades" and everyone wins.  This is the major reason
    the price of ink jet printers have dropped .. causing RAPID expansion in ink jet
    printer technology.  The thing to remember here is that images are created
    by drops of ink sprayed onto the surface of a sheet of paper which is
    "friction fed" through the printer.
    There are a number of other technologies on the market (melted canyons and
    other type toners), but for now lets limit our discussion to the most
    common, Laser and Ink Jet technologies.  
    I know I have written a lot of words and have yet to touch on the subject at
    hand ... paper.  But since we are all new in this ever changing land of
    computer paper technology, I felt it is important that we all start at the
    same point.
    As we get further into the subject of "media"--- the material we put into
    our printers --- we will begin to address the specific problems as they
    relate to specific printers.

    [Return to Directory]

    Background Information on PAPER
    by Stephen A. Singer ©1997 All Rights Reserved

    In 1990, HP changed the way we print graphics and opened a decade of rapid
    change in computer printer technology and product development.  With silent
    operation plus a small "footprint,"  ink jet printers crept into our lives
    and once in position, exploded with a massive blast.
    For a mear $800 US Dollars, graphics could be printed in vivid 3 color
    process.  Cyan (C)   Yellow (Y)   Magenta (M)
    The entire color spectrum can be printed on paper using these three colors.
    Add Black (K)   for shading and depth and you now have 4 color process
    The Pantone(r) Matching System (PMS) -- the most widely used color matching
    system used in the printing industry --- was developed many years ago for
    the commercial printing industry to standardize ink colors.  Every color is
    assigned a number for easy identification every color.  These guides  come
    in several formats.  Many include a mixing formula -- a formula using CYMK.
    The TRU-MATCH(r) color system is a popular color matching system which has
    become popular in the computer industry.  Color matching systems have become
    very important as those using computers to create computer graphics, strive
    to match the colors on the computer screen with those obtained using color
    And that's the bottom line in this discussion --- color.  There a number of
    factors which determine the color which appears on the final printed
    material. Color matched colors will appear different when they are printed
    on different materials.
    While there are many design factors which impact on color appearance,
    including color shading (screens) which causes a color to appear lighter,
    the vast majority of color related factors relate to the media (paper,
    plastic, cloth) on which the images are printed.  Colors printed on a
    colored sheet appear different than those printed on a white sheet, bright
    white sheet, textured sheet, card stock, cloth, mylar(r), and materials
    specially coated for use with color ink jet printers.
    It is important to note that the colored ink which is manufactured for use
    in color ink jet printers varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.  Add to
    that the color variations caused by those who manufacture ink cartridge re-
    fill ink, and you have a better understanding as to the difficulties
    experienced in the quest for achieving the "perfect printed color.
    It is my intention to address the differences in media, leaving the
    discussion on ink differences to specialists in that industry.
    What is this thing called "Paper"?
    The principal raw material is cellulose fiber.  As the Chinese discovered
    many years ago, when these fibers are wet, they will bond together as they
    dry.  Ninety-Five percent of the world's paper making fiber comes from wood.
    Other paper making ingredients include fibers from seeds, grasses, and plants
    as well as some synthetic materials.
    Other important sources for cellulose fiber include waste wood and sawdust.
    Seed fiber adds strength, durability and texture to paper; the most common
    seed fiber used in paper making is cotton seed. Today Recycled paper and
    paper board have become the a major source of wood fiber for use in
    paper making.
    The actual process for making paper is quite involved. Fiber is turned into
    pulp. This pulp contains many impurities, such as lignin, which may be found
    in the finished paper product.  Pulp is then refined in a process in which
    it is bleached and diluted with water to create a mixture called "slurry".
    Bleach is used to remove the impurities from wood fibers.  It is also used
    to brighten residual lignin, producing a bright white pulp. It also adds to
    chemical stability and purity.  Bright white pulp yields a brighter sheet of
    paper.  Colored papers manufactured from bright white pulp are brighter.
    The process during which fibers are frayed to enable them to blend and bond
    more efficiently is called refining.  Fiber length is reduced, fibers are
    mixed evenly with water and additional ingredients.  This is the most
    important step in the paper making process since papers which are made from
    non-refined pulp are porous, puffy and weak.
    Letterhead paper and blotter paper (remember blotters), made from the same
    material is determined during the refining process.
    Pulp is turned into paper in a Fourdrinier machine.  Many things happen to
    the paper web during this stage.  No need to discuss the technical aspects
    here. The end result, a large roll of paper is all that matters.  During the
    final manufacturing stages, paper is calendered.  Calendering is a process
    during which the web (roll) of paper is passed through a series of polished
    steel rollers.  This is the stage where the paper is surfaced; the finish on
    the paper surface is determined.
    When a glossy surface is desired, the paper must pass through additional
    calendering rolls.  Depending upon the finish desired, paper may be light,
    moderate or heavy calendered or not calendered at all.
    What does all of this mean?  The characteristics found in the various paper
    stocks available, characteristics built into paper during the paper making
    process, will determine the compatibility of the product for use in various
    When we consider the desired results for which we are looking, we can then
    choose a paper with the proper characteristics.
    Additional terms and definitions:
    Grain Direction -- When paper is manufactured on the paper making machine,
    the fibers line up in the direction the web, roll of paper is moving.  It is
    important to know grain direction since paper will expand and contract more
    against the grain than parallel to it.  Paper folds, and tears more easily
    with the grain than against it.  The tensile strength, its ability to
    withstand tension, is greater when paper is stressed in the direction of the
    grain, rather than against it.  Paper stretches (in some cases as it absorbs
    moisture in the air) less with the grain than against it.
    When folding paper, paper folds straighter with the grain than against it.
    Ever notice that when folding a sheet of paper into quarters, one edge is
    "sharper" than the other.  This is caused by the fact that one fold is with
    the grain and the other is against it.
    A side note ... Since most paper used in computer printer is grain long,
    stock which is used for making greeting cards is usually scored when the
    card will be folded into quarters since folds are necessary both with and
    against the grain.  The important score is the one that is "horizontal" when
    the sheet is held with the grain (long side) up and down.
    Paper tears straighter with the grain than it does against it; there is more
    resistance when tearing across the grain paper.
    Obviously, it is easy to determine grain direction when paper is on a roll.
    There are a number of "tricks" which can be used to determine grain
    direction on a sheet of paper.  Here are just two.
       Take a sheet of paper and wet only one side.
       As the paper curves, forming a valley, the paper grain is always parallel
       to the curve.
       Cut two strips at right angles to one another from the same sheet of
       paper, each about 1 inch wide and 6 inches long.
       Place one strip on top of the other and hold the two at the end. Since
       paper is stiffer in the direction of the grain, the strip which has been
       cut across the grain will bend away from the other strip.  This strip
       which bends away was cut from the short grain direction of the sheet.
    The grain direction is important when paper is stored on its edge, as in a
    file cabinet.  Imagine two files cards ... one grain long and the other
    grain short.  When placed in a file, one will stand almost straight (grain
    long) the other will bend over more quickly (grain short).
    When feeding paper into a printer or copier, grain direction becomes
    important.  Normally a long grain sheet will feed smoothly as it passes
    through the printer; a short grain sheet may cause jamming.
    Remember, this discussion is about paper.  Other products such as Mylar(r),
    vinyl and plastics may react differently.
    Acid Content --- Since paper is produced using many chemicals, if there is
    an excess of acid in paper, paper will age quickly, turning yellow and
    brittle.  The acidity of paper is measured by it pH level.  During the
    paper making process, alkaline is added to help naturalize the acid and thus
    ensure longevity.  Acid-free paper, very important to those who are
    interested in preserving documents over a long period of time, have a pH
    level of approximately 7.  Seven is considered neutral or acid free.
    The removal of lignin, helps insure that paper will not yellow as it ages.
    In a effort to avoid the formation of acid in finished paper due moisture
    imparted when handled as well as moisture in the air, paper may be alkaline-
    Basis Weight --- This term is important since paper is sold by its weight.
    The basis weight of a sheet of paper is determined by the actual weight of
    500 sheets of paper.  Confusion is caused when comparing various paper
    weights since Basis Size (the size of the sheet weighed) is not the same for
    all types of paper.  And thus a 20# bond sheet weights the same as a 50#
    offset sheet.
    The Basis size for weighing bond paper is 17" x 22".
    The Basis size for weighing offset paper is 25" x 38".
    500 sheets of bond --- 17" x 22" --- weights 20 pounds
    500 sheets of offset --- 25" x 38" --- weights 50 pounds
    Yet the thickness of the paper, the caliper measure in thousands of an
    inch) are both approximately .0034"
    Caliper refers to the thickness of the sheet of paper.  Rather than
    comparing paper by weight, it would be easier to compare it by caliper.
    However, seldom is the caliper of a sheet stated on the package.  Thus the
    consumer is often confused when purchasing paper.  Having bought a package
    of 50# paper, the average consumer may be surprised to find that the sheet
    is lighter (thinner) than the 24# paper they had been using.
    50# offset is equal to 20# bond
    60# offset is equal to 24# bond
    Thus 50# is actually lighter than 24# !!!
    A comprehensive comparison table will follow.

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    Paper Weights - Eliminate the Confusion

    by Stephen A. Singer ©1997,1998 All Rights Reserved

    To help eliminate the confusion relative to paper weights, we have prepared a "Relative Weight" chart. This chart can be found on our Imagination Gallery Web Site. We think you will find it very helpful as you try to determine which paper is best for your various projects.


    • Basis Weight
      The basis weight of a paper is the designated fixed weight of 500 sheets, measured in pounds, in that paper's basic sheet size.
      It is important to note that the "basic sheet size" is not the same for all types of paper.
    • Caliper
      Caliper refers to the thickness of a sheet of paper expressed in thousands of an inch. This measurement is taken with a micro meter. Normally, paper caliper should not have more than a + or - 5% variance within a sheet. Generally, the relation between caliper and basis weight .... the greater the caliper (the thicker the paper), the greater the paper weight.
    • Equivalent Weight
      While different paper types have different basic sizes, papers can still be compared by using equivalent weight.

    Basis Weight ("Category") Table

    Type Paper Basic Size - 500 Sheets
    Rag Paper
    17" x 22"
    Coated Paper
    25" x 38"
    20" x 26"
    "Tag Stock"
    24" x 36"
    25-1/2" x 30-1/2"

    The Values in the table below are intended to serve as a guide only. They should not be used as specifications since there are
    trade-offs between values of characteristics within the same
    basis weight which vary with paper manufacturers.

    -- Bond --
    - Offset -
    - Cover -
    -- Tag --
    - Index -
    Metric(grams /sq meter)
    Equivalent 16 40 22 37 33 .0032 60.2 gsm
    Weight 18 45 24 41 37 .0036 67.72 gsm
    20 50 28 46 42 .0038 75.2 gsm
    24 60 33 56 50 .0048 90.3 gsm
    28 70 39 64 58 .0058 105.35 gsm
    29 73 40 62 60 .0060 109.11 gsm
    31 81 45 73 66 .0061 116.63 gsm
    35 90 48 80 74 .0062 131.68 gsm
    36 90 50 82 75 .0068 135.45 gsm
    39 100 54 90 81 .0072 146.73 gsm
    40 100 56 93 83 .0073 150.5 gsm
    43 110 60 100 90 .0074 161.78 gsm
    44 110 61 102 92 .0076 165.55 gsm
    47 120 65 108 97 .0078 176.83 gsm
    53 135 74 122 110 .0085 199.41 gsm
    54 137 75 125 113 .009 203.17 gsm
    58 146 80 134 120 .0092 218.22 gsm
    65 165 90 150 135 .0095 244.56 gsm
    67 170 93 156 140 .010 252.08 gsm
    72 183 100 166 150 .011 270.9 gsm
    76 192 105 175 158 .013 285.95 gsm
    82 208 114 189 170 .... 308.52 gsm
    105 267 146 244 220 .... 385.06 gsm

    Return to Directory]

    International Paper Sizes

    Americans usually misunderstand International Paper Sizes as often as
    Paper Weight
    In an effort to help eliminate confusion, we have prepared the following table.
    International Metric Paper Sizes - ISO Standard

    WIDTH (mm)
    HEIGHT (mm)
    WIDTH (in.)
    A0 841 mm 1,189 mm 33.11 in. 46.81 in.
    A1 594 mm 841 mm 23.39 in. 33.11 in.
    A2 420 mm 594 mm 16.54 in. 23.39 in.
    A3 297 mm 420 mm 11.69 in. 16.54 in.
    A4 210 mm 297 mm 8.27 in. 11.69 in.
    A5 148 mm 210 mm 5.83 in. 8.27 in.
    A6 105 mm 148 mm 4.13 in. 5.83 in.
    A7 74 mm 105 mm 2.91 in. 4.13 in.
    B0 1,028 mm 1,456 mm 40.48 in. 57.32 in.
    B1 728 mm 1,028 mm 28.66 in. 40.48 in.
    B2 514 mm 728 mm 20.24 in. 28.66
    B3 364 mm 514 mm 14.33 in. 20.24 in.
    B4 257 mm 364 mm 10.12 in. 14.33 in.
    B5 182 mm 257 mm 7.17 in. 10.12 in.
    B6 128 mm 182 mm 5.04 in. 7.17 in.

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    The Incredible Shrinking Picture Material
    by Stephen A. Singer ©1998 All Rights Reserved

    Remember coloring on Shrink Plastic ? 
    Shrink Plastic goes back to the seventies ... I thought it was older 
    than that but I have been corrected.
    Shrink Plastic is a plastic on which kids would draw … in many cases it had images 
    preprinted for coloring.  After the images were colored, you would cut the plastic 
    to size, place it in a convection oven and watch as the plastic curled up … and 
    hopefully unfolded and laid flat.
    In the spring of 1997, after having worked on the project for over a year, we figured
    out how to coat shrink plastic.  We needed to place a special coating on the material 
    so that it can be printed in a color ink jet printer.  Without the special coating, ink 
    will bubble on the surface and never dry.  It just makes a mess.
    First I had to figure out the nature of the material.  Each time I asked, nobody wanted 
    to tell me about its composition.  It wasn't that they didn't what to tell me … it was that 
    I kept asking that group who never heard of it? 
    Eventually I found out that this is Bi-Axial oriented Styrene.  Bi-axial which means it will 
    shrink evenly in both directions.   Do you know where they use styrene?  Ever buy strawberries
    or blueberries in that clear "clam shell" package?    
    The package is styrene.  It is actually Mono-axial oriented 3 mill styrene.  Our product is 10 mill.  
    The first time they extruded our material … they messed up and forgot to change the setting 
    from mono to bi-axial.  So when you went to shrink our material, it shrunk more in one 
    direction than the other.
    Here we were with thousands of sheets which would not shrink evenly.
    Never fear .. we're marketers.  We turned it into a product called "Fun house shrink" …
    Guaranteed to distort any picture!  Looking to lose weight?  Use Fun House Shrink.  
    Remember the mirrors in the old fun house.  They would make you look tall and thin.  Yep … 
    funhouse shrink does it!  Now if I could only find a way to add hair to the top of my head.  
    But that's another story.
    With the first problem solved, we needed to figure out how to put a special coating on our shrink material.
    Now you have to understand …all of the coatings we put on our materials are put there using heat.  
    You begin to see the problem.  Heat this material and it shrinks !
    So we needed to find a way to cold coat our shrink.  Once that was solved we had to overcome the problem 
    of the coating "delaminating" from the surface of this non-porous material.  
    At first the coating would peel off the surface.
    Well finally all of the problems were solved and in the summer of 1997 we brought SUPER COLOR SHRINK 
    to market.
    Super Color Shrink is a great product in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing.  
    It really is a "crafting product."     
    Those like me make key chains, zipper bobs and other "neat things."  Those who are really handy make 
    beautiful jewelry using metal fixings which can be found in the craft store.
    You can even use shrink to adorn greeting cards.
    I'm into butterflies and bows.  They don't have to lay completely flat to look good.  
    Just glue the shrink to the face of the card and you have a 3-D image.  
    Put a bow in the hair of a baby picture.
    Add a butterfly or two in the background.  It's neat!
    A quick story … we were going to a trade show and decided it would be good to give out a piece of shrink 
    with our company logo.  With a piece of double side sticky tape, we could slap it onto the name badge of 
    those who visited our booth. So I had to make a least 300 pieces with our logo.  One evening when my 
    wife left the house to play cards with her friends, I fired up the toaster oven to broil.  Then I did the same 
    with our electric oven.  Now after the smoke detector stopped shrieking and the dog stopped barking,  
    I proceeded to shrink the hundreds of badges which I had previously printed on my color ink jet printer.
    Using oven mits, I loaded the a teflon tray and filled the oven with shrink.  Then I did the same with the 
    toaster oven.  With perspiration running done my face, I was like a one arm paper hanger as I flipped from 
    one oven to the other.  Everything got hot hot!  Actually the trays got so hot that the shrink would shrink 
    as fast as it would hit the tray.  I had badges all over the place.  But I got them done in no time.  
    I then cleaned up the mess.  If it wasn't for the heat in the house, my wife would have never known.  
    So big deal; the house was at 85 degrees.  I guess I should have put on the air conditioning before she returned.  
    But at least I did clean up my mess in the kitchen.  Well almost everything.  OK .. so their were a few stray 
    pieces of plastic around and I didn't put everything back in the oven (for storage) as I had found it.
    So my suggestion is to do it the right way. Put the shrink on the tray with the printed side down after having 
    preheated the oven to 275 degrees, place the shrink into the oven and wait about 15 minutes 
    or until the shrink returns to the flat position.  This should work most of the time.  However if you have no 
    patience, like me, set the toaster oven to broil and watch the shrink shrink in 20 seconds !
    By the way … never use a microwave oven.   But that's another story.
    I stand corrected - August 2000
    Hello ... 
    I was interested in your shrink material website and read your shrink 
    history that shrink plastic goes back to the 70's.  Actually your source is 
    incorrect.  "Shrinky Dinks" were invented in 1973 by Betty Morris of 
    Wisconsin and later marketed by the coloring book giant, Colorforms.  Today 
    I believe Milton Bradley oficially carries on this tradition. 
    BUT ... 
    In 1968 Wham-O marketed a device called "The Shrink Machine."  They also 
    marketed a number of after market trademarked items called appropriately 
    enough ... "Shrinkies."  The 6 shrinkies were called "Tiny-Trinkets," 
    "Widdle-Weirdies," "Bitty-Blanks," "Teeny-Tinys," "Itty-Autos," and "Micro 
    Messages."  I have a Wham-O Shrink Machine and the 6 shrinkies.  It used a 
    40-watt light bulb to shrink the Polystyrene.  Can you say 15 minutes???  It 
    does do a credible job though ... just slow. 
    Now you can correct the person who initially corrected you concerning the 
    history of shrink.  Since "Shrinkable Plastics" and "Superabsorbers" are my 
    specialties I have done a lot of research on them.  I do a lot of 
    presentations in my role as a Polymer Ambassador to science teachers all 
    over the U.S. concerning these topics.  With your permission I will include 
    both your website and your product as additional examples of "Shrinkable 
    Plastics" when I do presentations. 
    Wayne Goates 
    Kansas Polymer Ambassador 

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    Word Processing to Graphic Imaging to Photo Manipulation
    By Stephen A. Singer ©1998 All Rights Reserved

    Having been in the business forms printing industry since the early 1970s, 
    I watched with excitement as the "mini-computer" changed the face of the
    business community.  Without question, IBM controlled the industry.  
    As soon as they sold through their current generation of mini-computers, 
    they upgraded their client base with the next generation computer.  
    First they saturated the market with their IBM system 32 computer.  
    Boy, by today's standard this could not even be considered a computer.  
    It had a small rectangular "green" screen, and I mean  small, which you 
    used to read the data being processed.  The data was stored, if I remember 
    correctly on a 8-1/2" floppy disk.  This disk was the forerunner of the 
    5-1/2" floppy disk which was later followed by the 3-1/2" disk.   
    This "computer" was really just a terminal on which data could be 
    processed.  It was a "very low memory" free standing unit which included 
    a continuous line printer.  This printer printed one entire line of data all at 
    the same time.  Each line contained 32 characters … each character 
    was 10 point type and was spaced 1/10 of an inch across the page, 
    1/6 of an inch down the page.  To aid in reading the information, the data 
    was printed on "green bar" paper.
    For years before, large companies had been using "main frame" computers 
    on which they processed data.  The great excitement was that the 
    "mini computer" brought computer technology into the hands of mid-size 
    and small business.
    My job, in those days, was to take the information which was printed on 
    this "new fangled" invention and organize it so that it could be easily read 
    and understood. I would re-design the business form output - Invoices, 
    Purchase Orders, Order Forms, Checks and Credit Memos and other 
    documents – so that they would act a tool to effectively communicate 
    information from one person to another.  We helped businesses 
    "reduce cost by increasing their productivity."
    In order to process information, endless streams of data had to be entered 
    into the new computer machine.  One way data was entered was through 
    the use of Data Punched Cards.  The "old " cards were 80 column cards.  
    This meant that there were 80 columns of data (punched holes) across 
    the card.  The holes were place into the card by a card punch machine.  
    Key punch operators would work hours typing information on a key punch 
    machine.  The Key Punch took typed key strokes and punched them into 
    a card which was then read by a Card Reader.  The Reader was attached 
    to the computer which could then let the computer interpret the 
    Few may remember that each card had a "notch" on the top right corner.  
    Actually the corner was cut on a 45o angle.  This was called a "facing notch."
    When holding a stack of cards, if one card in the stack was backwards, 
    it could be seen instantly since the uncut corner would be visible.  A card 
    facing in the wrong direction would not be read properly in the card reader.
    This technique for "facing" documents is still an effective method  for 
    insuring than every sheet or card is facing in the proper direction. 
    With the advent of the IBM system 32 came the 60 column card.  
    While this was a smaller punch card, the principle of punching data and 
    reading it into the computer remained the same.  
    In addition to using punch cards to input data, information could be typed 
    and viewed on a "green" screen.  This opened new opportunities for the 
    creative business forms designer.  Designing easy-to-read Source 
    Documents improved productivity and the disposition of those entering 
    the information into the computer.  By organizing the information on 
    the Source Document in the same configuration as it appeared on the 
    computer screen, the speed of data entry increased dramatically.  
    In addition to designing an effective business forms and source document, 
    the business forms designer had to interact with the software programmer 
    who would, often reluctantly, re-design the way the information appeared 
    on the computer screen as well as re-design the way the information 
    printed on the paper.
    Innovative programmers figured way to print elaborate graphics using dots,
    dashes, X and Os as well as other characters of the alphabet.
    Soon after everyone had their IBM System 32 in place, the IBM System 34 
    started to ship to customers.  In a great marketing ploy, those who had 
    purchased (or leased) their System 32 were on a waiting list for the 
    System 34. Then followed the more powerful IBM System 36.
    Around this same time those of us in the business forms industry worked 
    with clients who purchased the "blue" Basic 4 (BB1) machine. Basic 4 also 
    upgraded their machines every couple of years.  Burrows also introduced 
    a Mini-computer around that same time.  And while their may have been 
    others (Macdonald Douglas I remember), in the area in which I worked the
    market was dominated by IBM, Basic 4 and to a much smaller degree 
    As the mini-computer was taking hold in the business community, the first
    Personal Computers (PC) started to enter the marketplace.  The PC had 
    two distinct areas in which it started to make an impact … Word Processing
    and Games.  
    And thus you have the first in a series of steps which led us from
    "Word Processing" to "Graphic Imaging" to "Photo Manipulation"

    Return to Directory]

    Micro Format - Starting a Business
    by Stephen A. Singer ©1998 All Rights Reserved

    With so many looking to start their own business,
    I have been asked many times how I started my own business ...
    and why. 
    The why is the easy part.  From 1975 until the end of 1982
    I worked for CBI Corporation, a business forms company serving
    clients in the Chicago Area.
    Over a period of time, the goals of the company changed
    from my personal goals until one day things came to a head.
    I mention names here with the up most respect since putting names
    on situations, in my opinion, makes things less vague and may
    help others relate to their own experiences.
    I reached a point in my employment in the fall of 1982
    where during a disagreement I found that I was right (in my opinion)
    and Cliff (the owner) was right {in his opinion) ...
    AND HE OWNED THE COMPANY.  I was fired !
    And now more than 15 years later it has been proven that we
    were both right.  Our company has grown and survived; CBI has
    continued to experience growth and success.
    And so after a six month period of "finding myself,"
    in the summer of 1983 I founded Micro Format.  With a
    game plan in hand we began to explore the business world.
    One day, while with a client for whom I printed business
    forms, an undertaker as a matter of fact, Norm took me aside
    and suggested that I sell small packages of continuous
    labels, index cards and continuous colored paper.  His logic
    was that there was a new breed of computer user in the
    country.  Those using the new Commodore and Atri Computers.
    And since I had access to labels, colored paper and so much
    more thanks to the relationships I had in the business forms
    industry, it was only logical that I could capitalize on this 
    new market.
    So I "brown paper" wrapped packages of labels, index cards,
    rolodex cards and continuous colored paper and went to the first
    computer show held by Computer Central in the Des Plaines
    Illinois Park District field house.
    This was 1983.  During the next few years, the personal
    computer industry continued to grow.  Eagle Computers,
    Osborn, Kaypro, Atari, Amega and Commodore computers were 
    the rage.
    In 1985 I created continuous Micro Cards ... continuous
    greeting cards packaged with envelopes.  The idea was that
    you printed your message in the lower right hand corner of the
    card using your word processor and dot matrix printer.  
    After printing, you would remove the margins and fold the cards 
    into quarters.  We printed twelve different cards, many raised 
    printed.   They were a bust.         Why you ask?
    No one knew how to format the text so that the printer could print 
    in the lower right hand corner of the sheet!  Word processing was
    a new and the programs were very limited.
    In 1987, while at a trade show with Jay Foreman, one of my
    Micro Card customers (re-seller), we saw a product on display
    by a company called Hi-Tech Expressions.  On display was 
    fan-folded banner paper.  Each sheet had a one inch printed
    red plaid stripe near the margin perforation. There was the page 
    perforation and the next sheet had stripes ... so on and so forth.  
    I turned to Jay and asked if I got rid of that cross perforation, 
    what he thought of the product.  He ask how I could do that to
    which I said "never you mind."  "You'll have a winner" he
    stated emphatically and so the idea of Banner Band, Pageless
    computer paper was born.
    Over the next six months I solved numerous manufacturing
    related problems and for the next 6 years we sold thousands
    and thousands of rolls of banner paper.  We manufactured
    banner paper for everyone; Brite Line, Memorex, Perfect Print
    to name just a few.  It was sold under many different names
    as well as our own Banner Band trade mark.  Banner Band was
    in computer stores and almost every mail order catalog.
    It was featured in the Power Up! catalog for years, appearing
    on the cover numerous times as well as in a double spread in
    the middle of the catalog.  The product sold so fast we were
    required to ship rolls of banner paper from Chicago to California
    by next day air so that they could keep up with the demand.
    A number of years after I created the first rolls of Banner
    Band, I ran into a man named Ken Grant. At the time he knew
    me but I didn't know him.  It was at a trade show where he
    said to me .... "I have something to show you."  Something
    that will "make your paper."  With that he reached under the
    table a showed me a proto type package of BannerMania.  Ken
    Grant and his Pixelite Group were the ones who wrote the
    original Print Shop Programs as well as BannerMania.  He was
    right.  BannerMania went on to become one of the best selling
    programs of its day... and thanks to BannerMania, Banner
    Band, pageless computer paper came into its own.
    What goes up must come down.  Between 1994 and 1995 Banner
    Band sales crashed faster than could ever had been imagined.
    This happens in most part due to the fact companies that
    manufactured printers decided to push Laser and then Ink Jet
    Printers onto the consumer.  And once Canon began to give
    software with their printers, the ink jet printer became the
    printer of choice.  Within a two year period, dot matrix
    printers virtually dissappeared from the home computer market.
    While Banner Band is still available and being sold today,
    the number of rolls sold annually represent a very small
    fraction of what was sold in years gone by.
    There you have it ... How Micro Format began and the first
    successful product line from inception to its near demise.
    Such is the way of business.
    There are "ups" and there are "downs."  
    Having experienced both 
    let me state that the "ups" are much more fun !

    Return to Directory]

    by Stephen A. Singer ©1998 All Rights Reserved

    During the years between 1987 (when I invented Banner Band®) and 
    1994, what I like to refer to as the beginning of the ink jet revolution, 
    Micro Format manufactured and sold hundred of thousands of rolls of 
    banner paper.  So you can imagine my surprise each time I spoke to 
    representatives from the "major" ink jet printer manufacturers – 
    HP, Canon and Epson.  "Consumers" I was told, "have no desire to print 
    banners with their home computers!"
    Can you imagine?  I was told that by the "technical people" at HP when 
    I spoke with them at Comdex (the world's largest computer show) – not once,
    but numerous times.   It wasn't my imagination – people love to print 
    banners and that was proven by not only the success of Banner Band®, 
    Pageless Computer Paper®, but by the success of Broderbun's BannerMania™ 
    software program.
    Actually there was one jet printer on the market at that time which could 
    print banners.  It was a "tractor fed" printer and, believe it or not, it was 
    manufactured by HP.  However it was not widely used and in the mid 1990s
    it discontinued and replaced by the less expensive "sheet fed" ink jet technology 
    Early in 1996 I was interviewed by the editor of a publication which 
    focused articles computer printer technology.   I remember complaining  
    that the manufacturers of ink jet printers were ignoring a large segment of
    the market since it was impossible to print banners on desk top ink jet printers.
    The morning of April 22, 1996 --- I remember it well --- I walked into my 
    office. As I glanced over at the FAX machine, I saw a stack of paper.  The 
    documents in the tray contained everything I needed to know about the 
    new HP682; a new ink jet printer which had been made public that day.  
    Unbeknown to me, the editor to whom I had spoken weeks before, was 
    under a non-disclosure and could not discuss the fact that HP was about to 
    introduce the first desk top ink jet printer which had banner printing capabilities.
    Immediately I placed a call to our manufacturing plant.  It just happened 
    that we were in the process of manufacturing rolls of white Banner Band –
    9-1/2" wide with ½" margins for use in continuous dot matrix printers.  
    "Stop the Presses"  --- We reconfigured and started manufacturing rolls of 
    banner paper 8-1/2" wide with NO margin perforations.
    Within 48 hours from the time HP introduced their 682C DeskJet Printer, 
    Micro Format introduced "INK JET BANNER BAND ®" Pageless Computer Paper®  
    on rolls for printing signs and banners on the new HP 682 Deskjet printer.
    It's unfortunate that it is still difficult to print banners on most ink jet 
    printers.   It is possible to print them on a number of HP, Epson and on at least 
    two models manufactured by Canon.
    Today banner paper sales are only a fraction of what they were in years gone by.
    However Ink Jet Banner Band sales and the number of rolls manufactured annually 
    continues to grow.  
    Once discovered that it can be done, everyone loves to print banners using
    their home computer.  And that's a fact !

    Engraving and Thermography As Creative Tools
    Page 1 ~ Page 2 ~ Page 3 ~ Page 4

    [Return to Directory] Copyright © 1995- Micro Format, Inc., All Rights Reserved
    Micro Format, Inc. ~ 830-3 Seton Court Wheeling, IL 60090
    Phone: 847/520-4699 ~ In USA Toll Free 800-333-0549
    Fax 847/520-0197