Twenty Five Years and a Day

Yes, it was just over a quarter-century ago—mere months after the last issue of Plant’s Review of Books hit the streets in the winter of 1994—that I started trying to put it online.

I’d set up a web server on a Mac desktop model hooked up to a dedicated phone line using WEBStar. PRoB had been created with the then-industry standard publication software Quark XPress and I was working in the prepress business producing film for catalog printing, cadging high-quality color scans of the artwork (mostly by Eric Rewitzer) for the covers and center spread.

That was the summer I went out on my own as a freelance print and multimedia production person, then I started teaching Macromedia Director at Portland State University and picked up a book contract at the end of the year. Stuff snowballed, and by the time I circled back to the project to do the last three issues, my archives were in disarray.

When I’d worked on the magazine, removable Syquest drives were state-of-the-art and I had a mixture of 44MB and 135MB cartridges, but the readers themselves were tempermental and mine had died. I had transferred most of the content to digital audio tapes (DAT), and I was able to recover the Quark layout files but a bunch of the high-resolution scans and graphic were missing (probably because one issue wouldn’t fit on a single Syquest. Time went on and I thought I’d do a more thorough search, I transferred the archives once again to CD-ROM storage before the DAT drive (even less trustworthy than the Syquests) died, but never found the rest of the art.

Now, of course, I can’t even open the XPress files. The format’s so old that I don’t think even the current version of Quark (it’s still out there somewhere but it long ago lost the war with Adobe InDesign) will open them, so even the low-resolution previews are out of my reach.

Thanks to Chris Lydgate, my classmate at Reed and the publisher/editor of more successful periodicals for prompting this reverie.