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About Rapidsoft Press
G. David ThayerDavid Thayer has been working with computers since June of 1957, when he started work as a mathematician and computer programmer for the National Bureau of Standards in Boulder, Colorado. He began programming microcomputers in 1981 and developed a number of vertical applications (computer program systems for a single corporation) in the 1980s.
David took up desktop publishing in 1991, which soon occupied so much of his time that he abandoned further programming efforts in 1995 to devote full time to this relatively new field. In 1997 he began researching the genealogy of his family and shortly afterward purchased a flatbed scanner in order to digitize the many old photographs of ancestors that were coming into his possession.
These three fields coalesced in the early twenty-first century. In 2002, David began work on a comprehensive family history titled The Tie That Binds, which he finished in 2010: an eight-year project culminating in a 1400+ page, two-volume set that was published in hardcover and distributed to family members in 2012.
Of these three technologies, the one that is at the same time the most fun and the most challenging is that of digital photograph editing. In his opinion, there are few thrills that can compare with seeing an old photo, possibly faded, color-shifted, badly exposed, blurred with age, distorted, damaged with spots and creases, or some combination of these, “come to life” and look like a picture that was taken last week.
David has worked on developing the skills necessary to repair compromised photographs since 1997. During that period, the hardware (scanners, etc.) and software (e.g., Photoshop) for processing photographs has advanced so radically that the old can hardly be compared with the new. The skill set necessary to utilize these tools has increased almost in the same proportion.
Like Alice in Through the Looking Glass, we have to run as fast as we can just to stay in the same place and twice that fast in order to get somewhere. Nevertheless, David stands ready and able to accept new and exciting digital editing jobs.
A Brief History of Rapidsoft PressWay back in the dark ages of personal computing—in 1981 to be precise—I answered an ad for a computer programmer from a company called Septor Electronics Inc. in El Paso, Texas. Since I lived only about 45 miles away in the town of Las Cruces, New Mexico, I answered Septor’s ad and soon found myself working as a consultant for them. Septor was run by a fellow named Rodger Lovrenich, who is a genius in his own right. He was working on a long-range project to automate automobile assembly lines. We agreed that my twenty some odd years of experience in programming and using computers could come in handy in Septor’s work.
I was set up with a Heath-Zenith Z-89 computer, which sported a 2-MHz Zilog Z-80 CPU and a “massive” 48 KB of RAM. Long term storage was on 360-K floppy disks. This was certainly primitive by today’s standards, but nevertheless I soon became embroiled in the fine art of assembly language programming and the use of the Microsoft BASIC Compiler, which Septor was using at the time.
One evening at home I was struck with an inspiration for a method of sorting things on a computer. As I worked out some of the details on a pad and paper, I suddenly realized that this method, this algorithm if you will, would be faster than quicksort. At that time, quicksort was the fastest known algorithm for sorting things on a computer. I decided to name my new algorithm “rapidsort” to emphasize that it was even faster than quicksort. Thus was the germ of my company name born.
After my work with Septor had been satisfactorily completed, I branched out into programming for other companies. Programs designed for one company to do one thing and do it well. I needed a name for my new software company. What else but Rapidsoft? I could tell people, “We’re like Microsoft but smaller.” Smaller as in “much”!
The name Microsoft was, by the way, a stroke of genius by Bill Gates: software for microcomputers. That’s what they called personal computers in the days before IBM took over the market with their “PC.” That’s what they still are, although nobody uses the term nowadays. Big machines are called “mainframes,” or “supercomputers” if they’re fast enough. Smaller computers came to be called “minicomputers.” Personal computers used microprocessors, so it was natural to call these relatively tiny little machines “microcomputers.”
I did a lot of heavy programming dba Rapidsoft, including a real-time, multi-user, multi-tasking software system for a company called Data Check International. It was a system for clearing persons who wanted to write a check by having the merchant call into the local Data Check franchise with a CAT: credit authorization terminal. Those are the ubiquitous little machines you see in every store nowadays that scan your credit card and charge you for your purchase. They can also be programmed to connect to a Data Check business, transmitting the person’s driver license number. If the Data Check database shows the person has issued bad checks, the merchant is warned and will likely decline to accept the check.
But I never registered the name Rapidsoft as a trademark. As a result, there is today a company named Rapidsoft Systems that was founded in 2005. But by that time I had given up programming because everything had gone GUI (pronounced “gooey”), which stands for “graphical user interface.” That’s what is on a Mac, and that is also what Microsoft Windows is: a GUI operating system. Programming for a GUI operating system is incredibly complex compared with programming for MS-DOS, as I had been doing.
So I decided to go into desktop publishing instead of fighting the GUI systems programming. It was only natural that I should name my new enterprise Rapidsoft Press, a dba name that I filed with the state of Oregon (where I was living at the time) on October 8, 2001. Last year, I decided to register the trademark “Rapidsoft Press” and filed an application with the US Patent Office on October 18, 2014. The registration certificate for Rapidsoft Press is dated September 8, 2015. In January 2017, Rapidsoft Press became a limited liability company (LLC) registered with the Florida Department of State. The circle is now complete.
Since June 2016, I have been using a workstation with a 3.4-GHz, six-core, multi-threading Intel Core i7-6800K, equipped with 32 GB of DDR4-2400 DRAM and a 1.2 TB (terabyte: 1,024 GB†) Intel Series 750 PCIe SSD (solid state drive). This machine runs a benchmark program called “the sieve of Eratosthenes”—which finds the first 1,000 prime numbers—325,000 times faster than the Z-89 computer that I began using in 1981. This is Moore’s Law, which states that computing power will double every 18 months, demonstrated in real life. This computer runs the Linpack benchmark program at almost 100 GFLOPS (giga-flops per second, or billions of floating point operations per second), which would have made it the fastest supercomputer in the world as late as 1992. All this in a machine that measures about seven inches wide, fifteen inches high, nineteen inches long, and consumes a mere 150 watts of power. We’ve come a long way, baby!
And so, like the proverbial rolling stone, we gather no moss.
I work closely with a collaborator, Kristin Delaplane, who owns a company named Our American Stories LLC, headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. We have developed several books together and are working on more at this time. We use the latest and best software for our work, including Microsoft Office products—mostly Word and Publisher, the latter being the “best kept secret in the DTP industry,” a powerful formatting tool; Adobe Photoshop Essentials and Photoshop CS5.1; and Adobe Acrobat X and XI for output to final press-ready PDF files.
Our philosophy of DTP business rests on a little book titled Typography for Desktop Publishers, written by Mark Hengesbaugh and published in 1991. From this book, given to me as a gift the same year it came out, I learned many things, including the proper way to format drop caps, which is rapidly becoming a lost art. Kristin and I are keeping that art alive and well in the twenty-first century.
† Hard disk (aka drive) manufacturers “cheat” on their size specifications. They define a megabyte (MB) as 1,000,000 bytes, whereas it is actually 1,048,576 bytes (1,024 × 1,024). A gigabyte (GB) is actually 1,073,741,824 bytes, but they define it as 1,000,000,000 bytes. A terabyte (TB) they define as 1,000,000,000,000 bytes, whereas in fact it is 1,099,511,627,776 bytes—nearly a 10% discrepancy. All of this came about because a kilobyte (KB) was originally defined as 1,024 bytes. The hard disk manufacturers use the SI system where kilo means 1,000. The computer definition came into being because 1,024 is exactly 2 raised to the 10th power, and computer memory chips always come in binary multiples of bytes, each of which holds 8 binary bits.
A gigabyte of memory (RAM: random access memory) actually can hold 1,073,741,824 bytes of data.
The Sieve of Eratosthenes
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