Who Killed Desktop Publishing?

Think about what you were doing with your PC in the mid-90’s, and what programs you used on it. There was MS Word and Excel (or perhaps WordPerfect and Lotus), which haven’t changed all that much over the years. You probably had a few games installed – Sim City, Carmen Sandiego, and Doom, to name a few. And if you’re like almost everyone I knew, you probably had Print Shop Deluxe (or MS Publisher, which came a little later).

I can’t remember a birthday party in the 90’s that wasn’t accompanied by that four foot banner that read “HAPPY BIRTHDAY X” in colorful letters, with low resolution confetti, cake, and party-hat clipart around the border. Sometimes it was printed on a paper-feed printer, other times it was taped together 8.5″ x 11″ sheets, but it was always there as part of the decorations. Then there were the cards, which were almost always 4.25″ x 5.5″ folded sheets of paper,with a stock greetings and a customized border. Occasionally, it would have a graphic chosen from massive clip art galleries that came on the CD-ROM.

What’s more, we thought that stuff was cool. Making it was a big deal to us, and everyone spent a lot of time doing it. Then it just sort of vanished; hardly anyone does it anymore.

The software is still there – Microsoft still makes Publisher and it comes with some versions of the MS Office suite. I’m sure there’s still some version of Print Shop Deluxe out there as well. And I still see flyers made with that software hanging on billboards and the such. But I don’t see the banners anymore, and I never receive those two-fold cards either.

So my question: Why’d it stop? I suppose it’s possible I just don’t go to the right birthday parties anymore, but I don’t think that’s the answer though. Somewhere along the line, our love affair with cheesy clipart and taped-together banners simply ended, and desktop publishing has become a lost art.

Not that I’m lamenting it’s loss, mind you. But it’s pretty curious how it just sort of faded into oblivion, and makes you wonder about what kind of stuff today might suffer a similar fate.


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