The Ecphorizer

Editor's Notes - Issue 2
George Towner

Issue #02 (October 1981)

Production Note
[George Towner in 1981]

Part of the fun of putting out a magazine is that you get to experiment with its content and appearance. This month we are fiddling with the cover stock. What you see is called "Sundance sunburst orange." Beside having a classier texture it is somewhat heavier than the plain bond inner pages, which should tend to protect the whole package in the mail. We considered keeping the heavy cover stock of the first issue; but aside from the cost, it won't go through the mechanical collater and is hard to fold.

For those who are interested, here are some details of our present production system. Most of the body text is entered onto a flexible disk, using an Apple II computer with a Pascal editor program. After it has been proofread, it is automatically justified and printed out on a Qume printer with a carton ribbon. The type face is 10 pitch Courier, but it is printed at 12 to the inch horizontally and 6 to the inch vertically, giving a "blacker" line. Incidental text is similarly typed on an IBM Selectric, using a Courier typeball. Headlines, the masthead, and some other items are photo typeset in Melior and Helvetica faces on a Mergenthaler VIP machine. All this is pasted up over a home-made light table, using a Lectro-Stik hot waxer. The printer, Lettermation of Cupertino, reduces the artworks to 77% for printing. They deliver each issue as collated flat sheets, which we then fold, staple, and label.

The subscription list is kept on an Apple II flexible disk with a duplicate for backup (we learned from [others]!) Each month the list is sorted by ZIP codes and printed on pin-feed label paper. When (we would rather say if) subscribers drop off next year, the program prints "Your Subs Exp This Issue" on the label; next month if the expiration date has not been changed, the subscriber's entry is deleted.


Blocks of print are neater and more readable if they are "right-justified," i.e. if the righthand margin is made straight by setting the lines to uniform length. THE ECPHORIZER accomplishes this in the least sophisticated way, by using a text editor option that doubles enough spaces in each line to cause it to break at a word ending or at a natural hyphenation. But if lines are short and words are long, this can lead to unsightly gaps in the line.

Ancient inscriptions and early books trued up their lines by dividing words wherever the line ending fell; but the demands of modern speed reading require that this division be made between syllables, so that the reader can store a recognizable word fragment before going to the next line. Thus modern text printing depends on syllabification.

Computer-controlled typesetting machines typically offer two levels of technique in syllabification. At the lower level, an algorithm examines words to determine there their syllable divisions probably fall. A machine we have used (the Mergenthaler VIP) appears to be about 95% accurate in this task. With a sophomoric electronic shrug, it makes the obvious error "disco-very;" but it also makes the very obscure error "know-ledge."Clearly the eccentricities of English orthography can outwit any algorithm. The higher level of technique requires a dictionary in the computer memory containing words that the algorithm divides incorrectly. Purchasers of the machine are sometimes given a stack of business-reply cards, so they can tell the manufacturer about such words as they discover them. With a good comprehensive dictionary, the accuracy of machine syllabification can rise to the 99.9% level.

But there are situations that will mystify even a dictionary. Consider the word "present." As an adjective (the present time) it divides pres-ent; as a verb (to present a talk) it divides pre-sent. Now syllabification depends on meaning. It might make an interesting project for someone like Noam Chomsky to dredge up all such English words and write algorithms to separate them on the basis of context. However, at present the only completely successful syllabification program known is the one that runs in the big computer that generated the problem in the first place -- the human brain.

Off-The-Wall Comments [George Towner]

At the annual Asilomar Treasure Hunt [please read my notes about all this Mensa business] during Labor Day [1981] weekend this year, one of the objects to he created by the contestants was "an original drawing of a wall covered with graffiti about Mensa." Here is a selection from the more printable entries. Because they were submitted by 6-member teams we are ascribing then to their team numbers, rather than to individual authors. If you are responsible for one of these gems, you must rest content with the quiet satisfaction of knowing that your anonymous genius has left our culture just a little more polluted.

IQ? Up yours -- join Mensa (3)

Have you hugged your genius today? (9)

Food for thought's not fattening. (7)

Save the medfly Spray Mensa instead. (20)

Talk, talk, talk. Join Mensa. (9)

A world without Mensans is like low fat milk -- bland. (7)

Boys and girls, take my advice. Try a Mensan 'cause we're so nice (7)

Screw with the top two. (14)

Mensans believe in oral sex -- they talk a lot about it. (22)

What do you call someone who's very large & very smart? Immensa (21)

Mensans do it in their heads. (9, 14)

The Whore of Mensa was not in SFPM. (8)

Mensans -- the Good Owl Boys. (6)

Love a Mensan for the score of your life. (7) 

Editor's 2004 note: rereading the above while preparing it for the Ecphorizer Online was like a trip down memory lane. It's hard to imagine how primitive things were just 20-some odd years ago. Yes, everything was stored on those 5.25" floppy disks (flexible disks? Did we really call them that?). And regarding keeping our subscription list in order, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank again Bob Clardy, who was kind enough to do some free customization of his label printing application for the Apple II. Mind you, this was done in assembly code and stored some 700 subscriber records, printed out labels according to our specifications, and also printed a "roster"-style listing of our subscribers. All on one of those old floppies.

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