Linotype: The Film 2012 ★★★★½

What does being obsolete really mean? There were apparently more than 100,000 Linotype machines produced – many the price of a house – but only about a thousand survived, a lot of them rusting, broken, forgotten, or about to be sent as scrap to China. Linotype was once the hot technology that revolutionized printing (literally hot – the machines construct lead type by squirting molten alloys), but the best stories about technology are always stories about people, and this fantastic documentary knows that surprisingly well.

We meet here an 86-year-old deaf Linotype operator, apparently the fastest in the world. And someone who wrote a song about it. And a guy who recently started the… Linotype University. And a volunteer at a museum who got a 4,000-pound machine at an auction for just 10 dollars. Asked whether he’d like another one for free, he said yes without skipping a beat. I guess I’ll have to learn how to use them, he later says sheepishly into the camera.

There’s a lot of heart and humour in this movie, no fake drama, and no unnecessary padding. If you’re interested in typesetting, history of mass media, or technological progress, you owe it to yourself to watch this tightly edited, great story of the 80-year-long ascent and subsequent demise of Linotype, and its enduring legacy – both as a typeface foundry, and within the hearts of all those people who got to wi cgk; fwy etaoin shrdlu

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