Computers Connect Screen Printers, Too

Printwear Magazine, November 1994

“It is my firm conviction,” says Tom Hanley, a retired marketing communications consultant, “that one of the main reasons for the cause of the recent recession was the mushrooming use of electronic voice mail in business. People are not talking to people. Business happens when people talk to people.”

I first heard Hanley’s remark about a year ago, and it stuck with me, niggling about in my head till it finally evolved into my own variation of the theory, briefly stated: The more communication, the more action.

In fact, rearrange the last six letters of the word communication and what have you got? Action.

High Tech Hype?

New scene: The Internet, also known as the Infobahn or Information Superhighway. More than 2400 articles have been written about the Internet in the past year, not to mention the new magazines it has spawned that pay perpetual homage to the wonders of this new world. The Internet, an international network of linked computers, has captured the imagination of millions of users worldwide.

Is it hype? Or has mankind really discovered something as significant as fire? Almost overnight, in many corners it seems, electronic mail (e-mail) and connectivity have become a way of life.

But what’s all this got to do with screen printing? Internet’s just ham radio for computer nerds, right?

You may be surprised to learn there are already hundreds (probably) of screen printers connected to the Net. Increasing numbers of industry professionals are coming online, and there’s no doubt more will explore its potential usefulness in the months to come. If my experience is any indicator, the opening of this new techno-highway is a certain boon to our industry, because it’s a new, efficient and powerful means of communication and, like I said, communication creates action. It’s exciting.

One Internet explorer in our industry is Al Anderson, Director of Divisional Services at SPAI. Though Anderson has only been online with America Online (AOL) for two or three months and CompuServe for about the same time, he has been working “wildcat” BBSs for years — “BBS” being the acronym for modem-linked Bulletin Board Services.

As far as screen printing is concerns, he asserts, “I strongly believe that one way or another the industry will need to communicate via computers.” It may not end with online services, but it certainly is beginning as far as Anderson is concerned.

And what about actual working printers? Jim Budzynski of Tip Tops of America, Inc. uses online services constantly in his textile-printing operation. “I download photos, inits, cdev’s” — network vernacular for system extensions, productivity enhancers, shortcuts and the like, commonly available on the Internet — “or anything else I think might make my job a little better. I have made quite a few connections with screen printers online, to exchange info and tips. I also use BBSs to download clip art and get technical assistance.”

Another online printer is Jim Stoppleworth, owner of Backdoor Printables. Stoppleworth started on CompuServe in the early 80s. He has since gravitated to AOL maiinly from a cost-saving basis — he can send unlimited mail as no charge as opposed to the restricted number of free messages the others provide — and being a Mac user for a more desirable interface.

Dousing Flames

By doing a series of member-profile searches, Stoppleworth has come up with a list of more than 100 screen printers with whom to communicate — colleagues he would not otherwise have met. This list of printers is easily accessible for communicating or verifying information that can be immediately challenged and/or supported by others on the list.

“For example,” says Stoppleworth, “I recently asked the question: ‘Is there a way white ink can be printed on dark shirts without flashing?” I got between 25 and 30 responses to that simple question — (they) were quite varied and some were downright helpful.”

This, for Stoppleworth, is only the beginning. He maintains that when a screen-printers’ forums comes online, there will not only be message areas corresponding to the diverse disciplines of the screen-printing industry, but also a library of industry research and how-to articles, a manufacturers/distributors/suppliers area and a live-chat area.

He adds that, besides increased accessibility to information, the Internet will evolve as a marketing tool. “Right now the old hands on the Net are resisting. (But) the sheer numbers of new people want to more than exchange information and will eventually overcome resistance.” He believes the profusion of “flames” (sort of an Internet self-policing convention wherein users thought to have violated network protocols may receive hundreds of scolding email messages) presently caused by such marketing efforts on the Internet will eventually subside.

Call to Action

If you are a member of America OnLine and would like a road map to Stoppleworth’s discussion group for screen printers, the following directions should be helpful:
— The folder is entitled ATTENTION SCREENPRINTERS. To find it…
— Go to the MacGraphics Forum (Keyword MGR)
— Click on the Message Board
— Click on MacGraphics Arts & Cad
— Then click on “Let’s Discuss Graphic Arts & Cad”
— Open the “Paint/Draw” folder (click List Topics) and you will find the “Attention Screenprinters” postings. (If all this sounds tedious, well, it is. Still, with these directions to guide you, you should not have any trouble finding a few of your peers assembled there.)

Assuming you have a computer, it’s not much of an expense to get a good modem. Plug it into a phone line and you’re practically there. i’m no technical wizard, yet even I was able to get wired without too much difficulty.

Says the SPAI’s Anderson: “The time is right for the industry to move online, though I think it will take some time for everything to get up to speed.

Jim Stoppleworth’s recent experience should give the fence sitters a nudge in the Internet direction. “Just this week,” he says, “I received a request from Belgium wanting to know if I was interested in marketing products through their Eurogroup.”

Something’s happening out there. Maybe it’s time to find out what?

Communication creates action.

This article was written while I was a marketing communications specialist with The Chromaline Corporation. It’s hilariously dated, but on another level equally intriguing. Feedback welcome.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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