As someone who’s been interested in typography for twenty years and computers for nearly thirty, the debate over whether the memos CBS used as a part of their story last week on the failure of George Bush to fulfill his Air National Guard duties has been incredibly frustrating. I’ve worked scanners; the one thing to remember about scans of anything is that no two scans are ever identical. Nor are documents that are scanned ever aligned perfectly; the orthogonal pixel grid tends to break up the letterforms of smaller characters. People who claim that they can get a “perfect” match between an electronically-produced image and one that has been scanned from a printout are just flat-out lying.
But one of the more ludicrous arguments I’ve been hearing is that there’s no possible way that the Texas ANG office could possibly have had something like the IBM Selectric Composer model that might easily have produced the documents in question. On “The Al Franken Show” today, a caller brought up that line of “reasoning,” saying that the machine would have cost $25,000 or more in today’s dollars, as if that definitively proved there was no way you’d find one in Texas.
Personally, I don’t know why the TANG office would have had a Composer, it’s sort of overkill for an office environment, but realistically, why wouldn’t an organization that was flying a number of military jets worth many millions of dollars and all of the attendent support equipment have had a piece of expensive office equipment?