Sunday, September 12, 2004

Regarding the Killian Memos

The whole point of the bloggers was that someone could just sit down at at a computer with MS Word and start typing the memos. Not even have to change default margins etc. Then run the output through a copier a few times to "age" it.Well, if this is not MS Word Times New Roman, that theory flies out the window. And one consistent character difference means it is not MS TNR.

I think you make a good point. However, looking at the points you mention I'm not sure that these differences can't be accounted for by distortion due to recopying and scanning.

If you say that MS Word didn't create those memos, then how were they created?

The aha! moment over these memos for me was seeing how an MS Word generated document almost exactly recreates the memos. I don't see how that could possibly be the case if the memos were created by a typewriter in 1972. Someone has even gone to the effort of deliberately trying to recreate the memos with an IBM Selectric Composer, and it could not be done.

When I started hearing people say that producing these documents with the Composer might have been possible, I had to laugh because I know from personal experience how absurd that is. Believe it or not I used to work for a small newspaper many years ago. I assisted in the use of a Linotype machine, the machine that the Composer sort of replaced. The Linotype was the machine that replaced manual typesetting, and it was the most ridiculous Rube Golbergian machine ever created. It must have had a million moving parts, was gas fired and electric. The operator worked at a keyboard with more than 300 keys, as I recall, one key for every character, the capital characters, and all special characters. The operator hit a key and a piece of type (actually a type mold for an individual character) was dispensed from a magazine above, carried on belts and over wheels to the ruler line where it was deposited to create a line of type. Despite all of the mechanical geegaws the operator was often required to position type manually on the ruler, reaching in with his fingers to pluck out errant type or insert type. When a line was complete the operator pulled a big lever, molten typemetal (mostly lead) poured in and a complete line of printer type was cast. At least once an hour, it seemed, the machine would spray molten metal when the casting process didn't work for any of a million reasons.

The other thing I remember about the Linotype was the fact that it was hot, hot dirty and greasy. In the non-airconditioned shop you ended up sweaty and as dirty as a coal miner after working with or around the darn thing. And it was always breaking down, and the operator had to be more than half mechanic to use it.

It was horrible. I probably still have lead poisoning from those days.

The paper I worked at had a Composer or something similar, but we ink stained monkeys were not allowed to even approach it. It was out in the nice, clean front office. The IBM Composer was referred to as a cold typesetter because it did the same job as a Linotype but without the molten metal. Nevertheless, it had the same Rube Goldbergian, clunky quality to it that the Linotype did. Like the Linotype, the thing had something like a ruler on which a line of "type" was assembled, and there was a little window that the operator watched to monitor this. If you messed up and put too many or too few characters in a line of type the whole thing fell apart and you had to start over. Most of the special characters, centering, and other effects were produced manually and took a lot of time. But at least a Composer wouldn't spew hot typemetal all over, and it had a greatly simplied, typewriter style keyboard compared to the grand pipeorgan type keyboard of the Linotype.

All this has brought those memories back, and all I can say is Thank God for computers and computer printers. (Youngsters these days have No Idea, and THAT is why the forgeries were done the way they were.)

The point of all this is to say that these machines were NOT the kind of thing that someone would sit down and pound a memo out on. There is NO WAY that anyone would use a Composer like that. The only reason to put up with the Composer's quirks was in order to produce copy that looked like it was typeset, so that it could be photographed and used in lithography to produce hundreds of printed copies. It would probably take an hour for an expert operator to create one of those memos as printed using a Composer, with centered text, special characters, superscripting and all. So that defense of those memos is just absurd.