A Journey Through Time and Technology

By Dominic Hughes


30 years ago I popped in to meet a friend at his work, which specialized in high-end photography, retouching and photo-composition for advertising. I was introduced to the owner who offered me a week of work experience. I finally left 8 years later.

This was back in the 80’s. It was a different time in so many ways back then. The one thing that has amazed me is the incredible advancement of technology we now have at our disposal, compared to back then. Progress. It’s a funny thing. Not always good - sometimes amazing - but certainly inevitable.

Job Quality

Back then, if you needed to create a photo-composition, we had to do it in a pitch black darkroom on photographic enlargers. More than half the people in my current office have never seen one of these. It was a time when skills and quality mattered. People took pride in what they did, because if you were good at it, you were respected. In order to be good at something, you need to do it a lot, practice, develop and hone your skills. This takes time. Experience meant value.

Computers were around then, of a fashion. They had green displays and clunky keyboards and did ‘word-processing’. Then one day it all changed. We were shown this amazing super computer which costed about £250,000 each! The Quantel Paintbox.

A Journey Through Time and Technology

Ever-Changing Technology

It was a computer that changed the world of photo-composition. This supercomputer could do a twenty part photocomp in 1 day. We were in awe.  There were only a handful of people who could operate it in the UK, so they were deemed demi-Gods. We then needed to get the photos into the computer, so we had to buy a high end Crosfield Scanner, (another £200,000), so that we could ‘digitize’ the transparencies as RGB (Red, Green, Blue) files.

A Journey Through Time and Technology

Giant Hard Drive Dishwashers

Now we needed to store the files! More technology came rumbling through the doors and before we knew it, we had ‘Hard Drives’! Each hard drive was about 16” diameter, 6" deep and weighed several kilos. We had to lift them into a disc reading device the size of a small dishwasher. Our computer rooms got bigger and bigger. What followed then can only be described as a relative whirlwind of technology advances. Over the ensuing years the technology got faster and faster,A Journey Through Time and Technologysmaller and smaller. New tech briefly making an appearance only to be superseded by the next break through. Floppy disks, Syquest drives, zip drives, Cds and Dvds. All state of the art at the time, all now in a landfill site near you.


For advertising, the expensive super-computers were replaced by the Applemac. The prices came down and the technology continued to advance. It is still advancing at an incredible rate.


A Journey Through Time and Technology

The Cloud is 24/7

A few years ago we replaced all of our physical servers with ‘Virtual servers’. The technology is moving back out of our office environment into data centers where resilience, backups and ‘Disaster Recovery’ can all be managed more effectively. There is more and more data being stored in The Cloud. We have the ability to be connected to our work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We can sit in our back gardens and operate our office computer via laptop, iPad, or even our phone.

Infinite Possibilities

Technology has changed the way we work; it has made the world so much smaller. It has given us the ability to tap into resources that were previously beyond our reach. This has changed the shape of developing countries. It essentially has developed countries. Social media has invaded our lives, our homes and our workplaces. New generations of children, teenagers and twenty-somethings have become so reliant on their smartphones that they cannot bear to be parted from them. One thing is for sure, over the next few years technology will continue to advance in amazing ways. Those of us that remember a time without it can really appreciate how far it has come and the infinite possibilities of what may lay ahead.