How motor magazines were made without computers

This is how motor magazines were made before the arrival of computers

We tell you how motor magazines were made without computers, in the analog era in which everything had an extra complication, but also romanticism.

Today, Motor journalists are “orchestra men”, because we are at the same time editors, composers, proofreaders, photographers, publishers, etc. These roles were previously dissociated into different professionals, each one taking care of their own thing, because everything was more complicated before the era of digital composition. That's why I thought to tell you cHow motor magazines were made without computers. Because, although these began to be used in the 80s and the color scanner is even earlier, in the motor journalism It has been worked in an “analog” way until relatively recently.

Entering the 2000s, There were still press departments that sent news by postal mail. Inside the letter there were photographic slides, or developed copies, and in more recent years CDs or floppy disks with the material. And the most privileged received VHS, Betacam or DVD tapes. I was there, they haven't told me. Let me go even further back in time, when computers for editorial composition did not even exist. They existed, they existed, but they were rooms full of switches, capacitors, cables, and they served few useful purposes outside of large (and very large) companies, as they cost outrageous amounts of money. Obviously, There were no digital cameras either., nor telematic transmission systems beyond the telegraph or fax.

Let's take as an example a experiment of vintage cars. Anyone examining a magazine from the 80s back might be tempted to think that sophisticated composition systems were used like those used now, but alas, friends, nothing of the sort. It was a manual process where different professionals were involved, and what takes minutes now, took many hours then.


Thanks to Stanford University Library, we can see the original material that was used to compose a magazine in the United States, Car Life September 1967. Normally, all that ended up in a bin when the magazine had been printed, there was little point in keeping so much paper. Journalists wrote their texts by typewriter or by hand., but they were usually delivered by machine. Those devices made strong fingers, the carriage return was moved by hand and there was no “delete” button.

On the other hand, the images obtained with a camera were missing, or the negatives were delivered undeveloped, or developed prints that were normally in black and white. The frames had to be large enough so that the layout artist could cut at will depending on the available space, since in the world of paper space has always been finite. In some cases, the person who wrote the test was the same person who took the photos, but usually they were separate tasks.

For the composition of the technical sheets, some sheets were filled out with standard fields, which was done with a pen or pencil (since using a typewriter was sometimes tedious). Regarding the graphics that accompanied the technical sheet, They were made on graph paper and obviously by hand.. Archaic objects were used such as compass, ruler, square, etc. Yes, those things served a purpose.

Once all the materials were available, the layout designers worked their magic, placing all the elements within a grid that the eye does not see, sticking to the exact assigned space, and adjusting the framing of each photo so as not to waste even a square centimeter of the model. After correcting the errors and adjusting everything, The green light was given and it went to press..


Among old school journalists, There are those who are still active and send their “chronicles” by phone because they travel without a computer, let alone typewriters. That is clearly obsolete, but know that it was done and has not stopped being done. Not everyone has become a “band man.” They also do not need to carry cameras, as press departments have excellent material available to media that do not take their own images.

But before there were those sophistications, and as a middle ground, There were portable typewriters that had a small printer, and thus the article could be sent by fax. If that seems archaic to you, better not ask what telex was, a middle ground between the Morse telegraph and the fax. When there was not the urgency that there is right now with the publication of information, luxuries such as send the film rolls (reels) by postal mail from the far country where a presentation was made. Did you know that the Renault Laguna appeared in Africa or the Fiat Uno in Brazil? They were definitely different times, and they were not round trips in the day.

In all these years, journalism is not produced in the same way, nor is it consumed in the same way. But from time to time it's good to remember how things were done in the past...

images of the Stanford University.

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Written by Javier Costas

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