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1989 - Bridging The Gap between Art & Technology

I was now able to provide faster service for one-off signs but could not compete with traditional signwriters for work with symbols, logo’s and graphic images. Apple Mac computers were becoming standard for graphic designers and bigger sign companies were now connecting those computers to plotter machines with software that would enable cutting of graphic shapes. However, these proprietary systems were restrictive and hugely expensive costing from 30,000 – 100,000 pounds! 

Luckily, I happened to read a magazine article about a new company in Canada called Corel Draw who had developed computer publishing software that converted images to curves – and which would run on Microsoft’s new Windows operating system. I phoned Corel Draw in Ottawa and enquired if there was any possibility of connecting their software to my Gerber plotter machine? They very helpfully informed me that a small company called Thermazone Engineering, only a few blocks away from them in Ottawa, were attempting to do just that. When I contacted Thermazone they had just completed their first Corel Draw software link and I posted 1,200 Canadian dollars payment to them on a wing and a prayer. Their tiny company later became a global business named Cadlink Corporation.  A bag of floppy discs with electronic board arrived in the post two weeks later. With the help of local computer wizard Bill Ford we finally got it connected from a secondhand PC (our first computer!) at around 3 o’clock in the morning - when it cut the shape of a fish symbol in adhesive vinyl. I jumped for joy in that moment as it opened up so many exciting new possibilities in signwork. 

We could now cut symbols, logo’s or any curved shape in adhesive vinyl and offer hundreds of different typefaces. For a total investment of about 2,500 pounds we had a computer system that was equal to others costing more than twenty times that amount. Also, for someone with zero signwriting skills, it seemed like a giant step forward in bridging the gap between the art of traditional signwriting and new computer technology.

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