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Bindroids: born or made?

Aug 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Is a nerd born or made? I can only go by my own experience as the youngest of seven siblings. I don't think any of us qualified as genuine geeks. Most of my siblings were excellent athletes, and while several were exceptionally smart, we had no “mathletes,” chess enthusiasts or “Star Trek” fans.

But even by 1970s standards, we were a nerdy looking bunch. My brother Peter looked a lot like “Ernie” on “My Three Sons.” And my brother John was called “Clarko” because another brother claimed he was a dead ringer for Clark Kent. Kevin, my twin, was called “Keeb” because some family members saw a resemblance to the cartoon elf featured in commercials for Keebler cookies.

As adults, nerdhood is creeping up on us like Steve Urkel's high-water pants. My sister not only sent her kids to violin camp, she actually participated herself. Peter isn't quite in Bill Gates' league, but he is the only honorary member of Best Buy's Geek Squad. Kevin has all the techno-nerd accoutrements: the black plastic Mel Cooley glasses, Razr phone, iPod, BlackBerry, etc.

The former “Keeb” also retains the unusual vocabulary that resulted from one of our mom's bargain-bin birthday presents. Mom could not resist a sale, particularly if it was something practical or educational. One year, my twin and I each got a sweater and one volume apiece of a two-volume reference set. Kevin got Roget's Thesaurus, while I got the Random House College Dictionary. I can't say my spelling improved, but Kevin's vocabulary did. The other week, we were watching one of his kids zip along on a tricycle. “Wow, look at Jack go,” I said. “Yes, he's moving with some alacrity,” my brother agreed.

“Alacrity” is just one of Kevin's many 50-cent words. He also says “bumbershoot” instead of umbrella and “rucksack” instead of knapsack. I might still look like a nerd, but compared to my brother, I don't sound like one. Well, most of the time.

Is ‘bindtacular’ a real word?

A few weeks ago, I met with Carrie Cleaveland to discuss the saddlestitching article you'll find on p. 38. I noticed our assistant editor hesitated to sit down. “Is there something wrong?” I asked. “No,” said Carrie, glancing longingly at the door. “But the last time you wanted to talk about postpress stuff, you got all excited about fugitive glue.”

“Well, it is exciting,” I said. “Who wouldn't want to write about booger glue?”

“Maybe we could talk about saddlestitching now,” Carrie said.

“Sure thing,” I said. “As bindery guru Werner Rebsamen likes to remind us, prior to the early 1990s, there wasn't much change in the basic design of saddlestitching equipment. Hans Muller introduced the first automatic signature feeder for a saddlestitcher with an attached trimmer at Drupa 1954.

“Conventional saddlestitching machines utilize a single, continuous gathering chain. Individual signatures are fed by mechanical feeders, and book parts are inserted into each other at four, six, 24 or more hopper feeding stations along the line. Folded signatures are placed manually or via an automatic loading system into hopper feeding stations.”

“Great,” said Carrie, looking at her watch. “Are we through?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I'm just getting warmed up. Next, grippers convey signatures into a small-diameter drum, and an adjustable backstop changes the direction of their movement. The signatures then are opened in the center by suction cups or a mechanical gripper device, depending on how the signatures are imposed.”

“How about now?” Carrie asked. “Is that it?”

“Just about,” I said. “I would be remiss if I didn't point out that today's stitchers are indeed moving with alacrity. Hans Muller's top-of-the-line 1954 model ran at 5,000 cph. Today, stitchers range from 6,000 to 30,000 cph with some really interesting midrange machines.”

“I think my phone is ringing,” Carrie said.

“Oh, I'm almost finished,” I said. “Get it, ‘almost finished’? Machine speed is important, but ultimately, you can move a sheet of paper only so fast. Commercial printers do a huge variety of jobs — fast changeovers are essential, and that's where the automation on today's stitchers really delivers. Makereadies that used to take hours now take as little as 15 minutes. As more printers explore their JDF options, we'll likely see even faster makeready times. And that's the end of the story.”