Page Eighteen

New York Photo District News
The computer obviously (some might say esoterically) processes the information. The 64K RAM means that it has about 64,000 bytes (64 kilobytes) of Random Access Memory. RAM is a kind of electronic notepad and the amount of RAM is a rough guide to the capacity and operational speed of the computer. The little Sinclair, for example, comes with 1K RAM, a research computer may have hundreds or thousands of times that. Anyway, 64K is a respectable amount. The disc drives are electronic filing cabinets. They both read the data that tell the computer'what to do—the program—and record the processed information on magnetic disks. The more drives you have, the more information you can play around with. Discs are susceptible to contamination, which explains the air cleaner and the no-smoking rule. The modem (modulator-demodulator) hooks the system up to the phone lines so it (and you) can chat with other computers. The dot-matrix printer is fast, noisy, and cheap (about $400). "It's great for bills," says Hopkins. "It makes them look like they came from Con Ed and accounting departments seem programmed to respond." Clients, on the other hand, are less enamoured of a follow-up letter which looks like a robot's ransom note. For correspondence, a letter-quality printer is essential. It produces copy that looks as if it were hand typed. In Hopkins' system it is typewritten—on an Olivetti Praxis 35 which is hooked up to ("interfaced with" in computerspeak) the computer. This particular piece of hardware costs about $700-anetilluzeratemaiittirerhit oradviee: "If you are determined to computerize, don't rush into it." Less than six months ago a printer of comparable quality would have cost around $1400 and prices are continuing to drop. Ten years ago pocket calculators cost $200. Douglas Hopkins had sufficient restraint to buy his decidedly lumpy-looking model a mere nine years ago, by which time the price had plummeted to $82; but, as he points out, by now it has covered its cost. The same cannot be said of one photographer who recently purchased a very powerful $17,000 computer and, saysllepkitis, "Just couldn't get it to do what he wanted it to do. He's now trying to sell it at half price. "If you do decide to get into this be prepared for a lot of hard work and commitment," he cautions. "You may even have to hire a cOmputer consultant at $50 an hour for a week, to help you get where you want to go. If you just want to balance your

A Photographer and His Computer
by David Douglas
Douglas Hopkins, bathed in a dim green light, carefully manipulates the controls. A vague humming fills the air. He makes a final check of the image and, satisfied, depresses a key. From a plastic box comes-a nasty "ZZZZrrrrtttttt," which sounds like a crazed archaeologist unpeeling his very first mummy, and out pops a perfect print. Douglas checks the bottom line—$1,737. He is engaged in what is arguably one of the most rewarding parts of the art: billing the client. "I can't say this computer system will pay for itself in a tangible way, like a new camera will," he says, scanning the data-filled document his electronic assistant has just produced, "but information is vital and that's where a computer comes into its own. "But," he adds, "I wouldn't recommend computerizing to anyone who doesn't have the aptitude and background for it." Douglas Hopkins certainly has the aptitude and a background which includes a five-year stint studying II physics in Germany, but even so he notes, "The engineers who have done such a great job of putting _stlithis stuff together have neglected to make most of it'comprehensible to anyone." He speaks with the hindsight of a man who, after some research, went straight from a $99 Sinclair computer kit which didn't work first time around to his current $5,000 system which consists of a Heath Zenith 89 computer with 64K RAM, two disc-drives, a modem, a dot-matrix printer, a letter-quality printer, an electronic air cleaner, and a ruthlessly enforced no-smoking rule. Hopkins built the computer from a kit. Unlike its tiny predecessor, the Heath Zenith 89 performed flawlessly. Final assembly of the dot-matrix printer was more fun, however: "There was a checklist of about twenty items to go through before switching on. I checked the first three and thought, 'What the heck?' " After the smoke cleared, and some froing and toing via UPS, the system was ready for operation. But what is this system? It's fairly typical of a small professional setup.

a

New York Photo District News
The computer obviously (some might say esoterically) processes the information. The 64K RAM means that it has about 64,000 bytes (64 kilobytes) of Random Access Memory. RAM is a kind of electronic notepad and the amount of RAM is a rough guide to the capacity and operational speed of the Computer. The little Sinclair, for example, comes with 1K RAM, a research computer may have hundreds or thousands of times that. Anyway, 64K is a respectable amount. The disc drives are electronic filing cabinets. They both read the data that tell the computer what to do—the program—and record the processed information on magnetic disks. The more drives you have, the more information you can play around with. Discs are susceptible to contamination, which explains the air cleaner and the no-smoking rule. The modem (modulator-demodulator) hooks the system up to the phone lines so it (and you) can chat with other computers. The dot-matrix printer is fast, noisy, and cheap (about $400). "It's great for bills," says Hopkins. "It makes them look like they came from Con Ed and accounting departments seem programmed to respond." Clients, on the other hand, are less enamoured of a follow-up letter which looks like a robot's ransom note. For correspondence, a letter-quality printer is essential. It produces copy that looks as if it were hand typed. In Hopkins' system it is typewritten—on an Olivetti Praxis 35 which is hooked up to ("interfaced with" in computerspeak) the computer. This particular piece of hardware costs
about $700 twat-iitvasTraLcrruainzertrat5ractirs....

August, 1982
checkbook and play a few video games, buy a canned package from Radio Shack." One of the problems is that there are virtually no standards in the computer field. Some systems have become de facto standards but equipment incompatibility is rife.. Even when software (program) producers assert that their products will run perfectly on such-and-such a machine, it ain't necessarily so. As Hopkins pointed out, "You may never get to find out unless you manage to decipher the manual's instructions and some are absolutely incomprehensible." For example, Hopkins mastered some basic and necessary techniques, not from the massive manual which came with his computer, but from skimpy yet lucid advice contained in a $20 game program. Another problem is that there are no programs tailor-made for photographers. Hopkins has had to develop his own using applications software—a type of open-ended program which helps the user define what he wants the computer to do. Brand-names of applications software include MicroPro's DataStar, Ashton Tate's dBase II, and Condor. This hasn't been as simple as it may sound (if you didn't think it sounded simple you were quite right). It has been a time-consuming, frustrating, tedious, sometimes rewarding, sometimes infuriating and altogether fascinating process. "When.I was at MIT I used to laugh at the computer jocks who'd sit in front of a machine for 113 hours, grab a can of Coke, and go back for another 18...I don't any -more!" pitfal ls. and poten -whet does this system actually do? The'veoprocessor program is an off-the-shelf item that allows pristine copy to appear from the printer first time around. All the editing is done on the monitor and it's a painless way to produce anything from a nice note to a direct mail campaign. In common with everything else that passes through the system, the information is recorded on a disc and automatically filed. It can be recalled at the touch of a button. The "Kontax" program is Hopkins' own creation, and, as the name- suggests, it is a file of the contacts with potential clients. In a i ion to rmafion, the program charts the progress urtiTiffro— of the relationship, providing a record of calls, visits, jobs, letters, and soon. "It can be done without a computer," he notes, "but it would take batteries of filing cabinets and possibly hordes of secretaries as well, to keep all the information together.
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you are determined to computerize, don't rush into it." Less than six months ago a printer of comparable quality would have cost around $1400 and prices are continuing to drop. Ten years ago pocket calculators cost $200. Douglas Hopkins had sufficient restraint to buy his decidedly lumpy-looking model a mere nine years ago, by which time the price had plummeted to $82; but, as he points out, by now it has covered its cost. The same cannot be said of one photographer who recently purchased a very powerful $17,000 computer and, says--Hepkins, "Just couldn't get it to do what he wanted it to do. He's now trying to sell it at half price. "If you do decide to' get into this be prepared for a lot of hard work and commitment," he cautions. "You may even have to hire a computer consultant at $50 an hour for a week, to help you get where you want to go. If you just want to balance your

August, 1982
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"If my rep or I rang Jack Smith today I'd just tap in his name and his file would come up. I'd enter the date and the code 'C', for a call, and that would be the record updated in seconds." One thing computers can do that would require an infinite number of secretaries with an infinite number of filing cabinets, is to cross-reference all information—any particular can be used to identify a file. "Suppose I'd met Jack at a party months ago, opened a file because he looked like a good contact, but not followed it up. If I just remembered that he was called Jack, I could ask the computer to run through all the 'Jacks' or everyone from Boston or even—in the unlikely event that I'd forgotten his name and remembered his telephone number—I could find him that way." A very nice touch is that the file also records the name of the legendary Mr. Smith's secretary: "Being able to, say, 'Hi Kathy. Is Jack there?' can make all the difference in actually getting to him quickly," Hopkins shrewdly observes. Day-to-day operation is simple, which means not only can Hopkins and his rep make entries, but a temporary secretary could quickly get the hang of it. It is also relatively "idiot-proof," in that it will only accept information in the correct format, delivered to the correct place. A sloppy secretary might try to enter "Jack Smith," where a date or number was actually called for. The computer refuses to accept such entries. Ii the_currera system, Hopkins' rep calls in the - information and he punches up the entries. The computer produces a weekly activities report—covering calls, jobs, etc., which keeps Hopkins apprised of his rep's activities and helps her organize her schedule. In the Mark II version, his rep will enter info directly via a satellite terminal (a monitor and keyboard which can communicate with the computer via the phone lines but can't "think" for itself). Also under development is a computerized stock picture file, as are various statistical analysis programs. If you feel this is beginning to sound more like the General Services Administration than a photographer in action, Hopkins has an answer. "I think one way to improve your lot—issues of talent aside—is to improve your service. For that, you need information. Not that you can't carry it in your head—for a while—or leave it to your rep, but if you and your rep part company you may have lost a year or two of contacts.

"You may have forgotten what was happening or the rep forgets or it may all have been lost in the communications breakdown which led to the breakup. You may vaguely remember a magazine art director—`Jack?'—who asked you to give him a call , a few months back, and you're faced with remembering whether you called him or your rep called him, or if anyone called him. If anyone did call him what happened? And what was his name, anyway? You may not forget what is happening with your major clients, but it's these peripheral people and markets that can provide a steady income and lead to greater things." Another Hopkins original is his job report which lists everything anyone might want to know about the shoot: all the relevant dates, models, agencies, stylists, assistants, and so on, as well as the type of film used and a detailed breakdown of fees and expenses. Despite the wealth of detail it contains, the labor required to produce a report is minimal: entries only have to be made once. Once a file is opened, the information is punched in as it becomes known. By the time the job is over, virtually all of the information is there. Where there is a standard charge for services or materials the computer automatically makes the calculations. For example, an entry in the slot reserved for backdrop paper rolls, makes multiples of $20 appear; entering "5" beside "messenger trips," for which Hopkins charges $8, would instantly ring up $40. Once entries are complete, the computer does all the necessary additions and subtractions and standard markups, and the invoice is ready. "Client response has been very positive," says Hopkins. "They love it."They know exactly where their money went and they have all the photo credit details. I have everything I need to know about the shoot and can call it up months or years later." One small customer, however, was unnerved by this piece of cybernetic overkill. "They were very upset when they got the job report," Hopkins recalls. "They phoned and said, "Who do you think you're dealing with? We're only a little retail store. We aren't IBM, you know!' "