Autologic Information International, Inc.
Autologic Information International, Inc.
Sales: $86.2 million (1996)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
SICs: 3555 Printing Trades Machinery; 2791 Typesetting
Autologic Information International, Inc. (AIII) is a world leader in the design, manufacture, marketing, distribution, and servicing of computer-based document production and publishing systems that automate the pre-press production steps of newspaper and magazine publishers, commercial printers, and other printing and publishing facilities. Based in Thousand Oaks, California, AIII is the result of a merger between two long-time leaders in pre-press and publishing systems, Autologic and Information International. Under the merger agreement, finalized in January 1996, former Autologic parent Volt Information Sciences, Inc. retains 59 percent ownership in AIII. Volt CEO and chairman William Shaw also serves as AIII’s chairman and CEO. Dennis Doolittle, former president of Autologic, serves as AIII’s vice chairman and COO, while Alden Edwards, former Information International president, fills the presidency of AIII.
The combined company posted sales of $86 million in 1996, its first year of operation. In addition to its Thousand Oaks corporate headquarters, AIII operates headquarters in England, serving Europe, in Australia, serving the Asia-Pacific region, and in Rio de Janeiro, serving Latin America.
AIII designs, manufactures, and distributes a range of equipment targeted at two main branches of the printing and publishing industry, publishing pre-press and ad or document distribution. The company offers an integrated line of products designed to meet the variety of speed, size, output, and quality needs from the largest publishers to smaller commercial printers and in-house publishing facilities. AIII’s line of integrated products enable the tracking and control of output systems, provide centralized data storage and management, and translation of the various data formats used in the printing and publishing industry. Products include raster image processors (RIPs), capstan and drum recorders, large-format color imagers, workflow management systems, including advertising management and output systems, electronic document delivery and distribution systems and other network management systems, and computer-to-plate (CTP) and press systems. The integrated, modular design of AIII’s products allows the company to design company-specific, networked pre-press printing and publishing solutions.
AIII’s APS Grafix RIP family, designed to operate through the Windows NT operating system running on Intel Pentium or Digital Alpha chips, as well as on Apple’s PowerMac operating system, apply PostScript-language interpretation to raster image processing. The APS Grafix RIP allows for simultaneous “ripping” and imaging, and compressed image queuing, prioritizing, and online previewing. APS Grafix RIP documents may be routed through AIII’s APS 32 Port Imager Hub to any of over 25 output platforms, including laser printers, DTP imagers, color drum recorders, and wide-format imagesetters, enabling a wide selection of resolution capabilities. The Imager Hub features 32 ports that can be configured with nearly any combination of input and output connections, from a single input/31 output setup to a 31 input/single output setup. The Imager Hub can also be configured to enable remote transmission up to 1.5 kilometers via fiber optic cables.
AIII offers a variety of imagers to meet the range of needs in the publishing and printing industry. The APS 3850 Laser Color Imager family features high-performance capstan laser imaging for large-scale production environments. The APS 3850 color imager family—which includes the APS 3850, the APS Aspen, the APS Aspen SST, and the APS Sierra—support color and black and white output resolutions ranging from 800 X 800 dots per inch up to 3600 X 3600 dots per inch. Output page sizes support widths up to 112 picas (18.6 inches) and lengths of 28 inches. Imaging can be performed at very high speeds, ranging from 24 inches per minute at 1000 X 1000 dots per inch to 70 inches per minute at 1000 X 1000 dots per inch.
The company’s APS Colormaster Series, including the APS Colormaster HS, the APS Colormaster Magnum, and the APS Colormaster Mercury, are high-speed laser imagers specifically designed for high-end commercial-quality color output. Image areas range from 20 inches by 26 inches to 32.3 inches to 47.2 inches. Speeds range up to 18.8 inches per minute, on resolutions ranging from 1270 dots per inch to 5080 dots per inch. Other imagers in the AIII line include the APS 84ACS Laser Imager, which provides black-and-white and color output in resolutions ranging from 600 X 600 dots per inch to 3000 X 3000 dots per inch, pages widths up to 84 picas (14 inches), at speeds up to 22.5 square inches per minute at 1200 X 1200 dots per inch. The APS Typhoon 16 Laser Printer and the APS BXII Laser Printer provide black-and-white output at 600 X 600 dots per inch for the inexpensive printing of plain paper proofs, and are capable of printing up to 16 letter-sized pages per minute, with a rated capacity of 30,000 images per month. Other proof-quality imagers in the APS family are the APS Prosetter 1000, and the APS Oce Thermal Printer. Another member of the APS family is the APS Platemasters, which offer multiple-resolution laser printing to aluminum and polyester printing plates and silver halide-coated graphics arts film.
The company’s workflow management tools include its Ad Manager and Output Manager software products. AIII’s APSCOM automated workflow system is designed specifically for the pre-press industry, providing multi-format, multiple-site document delivery.
In addition to these products, AIII continues to add to its product offerings. In March 1997, the company, in conjunction with Harlequin, a software provider to the pre-press industry, announced the conclusion of a successful test of the new TIFF/ IT-PI (Tag Image File Format for Image Technology) data file format, designed to supplement or replace the PostScript format. In June 1997, AIII signed an agreement with Israel-based Scitex Corporation Ltd. to distribute that company’s Dolev 4news imagesetter as the APS 4news Laser Imager. AIII also announced a September 1997 release date for an interface linking the APS 4news with the company’s standard imaging architecture.
Merging Pre-Press Pioneers in 1996
Both Autologic and Information International had roots going back to the early days of electronic pre-press publishing systems before the two companies agreed to merge in January 1996. Autologic had operated for much of its history as a subsidiary to Volt Information Sciences, Inc., a conglomeration of companies, including temporary employment services, publishing, and computer services, led by founder William Shaw. In the 1950s, Shaw, graduated from Brooklyn College, and brother Jerome went into business producing technical manuals for the U.S. military. The brothers originally outsourced page makeup and typesetting to another company. That company, however, was failing, and, in order to maintain their own business, the Shaws bought the other company. In 1964, the typesetting business was incorporated as Autologic, Inc.
Information International had incorporated two years earlier. Operating since the early 1950s, the company had been involved in the development of cathode ray tubes, and then became among the first to adapt CRT technology for use in typesetters and scanners for the publishing industry. By the 1960s, the printing and publishing industry had begun to incorporate newly emerging digital technology, replacing previous typesetting technologies. Cold type, representing the first generation of the new technology, used matrices to reproduce characters on photographic negatives on acetate film, replaced the ’hot metal’ system, which required the setting of individual type characters. The second generation of typesetting technology also used photographic negatives, but introduced digital technology to create the type characters. Using computers, characters were scanned in and displayed as dots and lines on CRTs, which could then be outputted to paper.
By the mid-1960s, the industry evolved into the third generation of typesetting technology. The first to be fully digital, the new technology did away with the use of photographic images and instead used disk-based characters and symbols that could be created and reproduced entirely within the computer, before being displayed to CRTs for reproduction on paper. The new technology allowed a much wider range of typesetting faces and sizes, at speeds up to 10 times faster than the previous generation. Autologic quickly came to dominate the third-generation typesetting technology, supplying machinery to the country’s largest newspaper and magazine publishers. The third generation machines soon switched to minicomputer platforms, introduced in the 1970s. They remained extremely expensive—with prices ranging as high as $1 million—and were thus available only to large-scale publishers.
Autologic continued to lead the industry through the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, advances in microcircuitry, produced by Intel Corporation, led to new opportunities in typesetting equipment. In 1979, the company introduced its groundbreaking APS-Micro 5 CRT digital typesetter. The Micro 5, which incorporated Intel’s 86/12A single-board computer based on the 8086 microprocessor, represented one of the first machines to be priced under $25,000, placing the digital typesetter technology within reach of small and medium-sized printing operations. The Micro 5 was powerful, capable of inputting at speeds up to 10,000 characters per second and outputting set type at 1,000 lines per minute, while offering resolutions of more than 3,600 lines per inch.
Publishing Solutions for a Changing World.
By 1983, the company had sold more than 350 Micro 5s and had sales offices located across the country. Customers included such papers as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and startup USA Today. However, a slump in the computer industry in the early 1980s soon caught up to Autologic, and in 1985 the company was forced to cut back on its employment. The following year, Autologic introduced a new line of imaging systems, the APS Micro 6, which included page image processors and laser images, providing text and graphic processing. The APS Micro 6 line proved quickly successful, and, added to the APS Micro 5 and the earlier, larger APS 4, sales of Autologic systems reached more than 1,000 by the end of the decade. While Autologic was building its typesetting and imaging business, Information International was recording its own successes, including building a leadership position in the introduction of early facsimile systems, and pioneering the use of workstation technology for the use in display advertising production.
Meanwhile, a new technology was finding its way to the publishing industry. The arrival of the first personal computers introduced the new era of desktop publishing. Autologic, however, responded only slowly to this new market, allowing other companies, such as Micrographix and Linotype to take the lead in this market. At the time, Adobe Inc. was introducing a new type format, called PostScript, which soon became an industry standard. In 1989, Autologic received licensing rights to use Adobe’s PostScript interpreter for its newspaper typesetting and other laser imaging systems. The following year, Autologic introduced a line of integrated products, adding its PostScript Page Image Processor and Graphics Integrator to its APS Micro 6 systems. Information International also began shifting its products, which included the 3850 Grafix imager family, from a proprietary format to the standardized PostScript language around this time.
At around this time, Volt, Autologic, and Information International began discussing a possible merger of Autologic’s and Information International’s imaging operations. These early talks proved fruitless, yet pointed toward a move toward consolidation within the industry. In 1992, Autologic entered negotiations with DuPont Co. to purchase that company’s Camex Inc. subsidiary’s display ad systems and customer business. The two companies reached agreement for Volt to purchase all outstanding shares of Camex in December 1992, with the Camex operations to be grouped under Autologic. That deal, however, collapsed just two weeks later, at the beginning of January 1993. Then, at the end of that month, Information International announced that it had agreed to purchase Camex.
Both Autologic and Information International had been hit by the worldwide recession of the early 1990s; in 1992, Information International had been forced to reduce its staff. Competition in the industry was heightening, with the shift to PostScript formats tightening profit margins. At last, in July 1995, Volt and Information International reached an agreement to merge Autologic’s operations into Information International. The merger called for Volt to receive around 59 percent of Information International’s stock, effectively making the new company, called Autologic Information International, a subsidiary of Volt. In keeping, William Shaw was named chairman and CEO of the company, while former Information International CEO Charles Ying was named to the new company’s board of directors. As Information International had been a public company, AIII remained public, trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The merger, worth about $35 million, was completed in January 1996.
The new company had combined 1995 revenues of $104 million. In February of that year, AIII began a restructuring designed to eliminate redundant products and staff, and to streamline expenses, freeing up resources for research and development. The first phase of the restructuring resulted in a layoff of nearly 100 employees, reducing the company’s payroll to 450. Plans also called to consolidate the combined companies operations at the former Autologic headquarters in Thousand Oaks. By the end of 1996, with much of the consolidation of the two companies’ operations completed, AIII posted revenues of more than $89 million.
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”Microcomputers Boost Typesetting,” Graphics Arts Monthly and The Printing Industry, March 1983, p. 106.
Rosenberg, Jim, “Autologic, Triple-I Merger Complete,” Editor & Publisher Magazine, February 24, 1996, p. 36.
____, “Autologic to Merge With Triple-I,” Editor & Publisher Magazine, July 8, 1995, p. 28.
—M. L. Cohen