(Updates from the Workshop)

Dr. David M. MacMillan

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Photograph of DMM by TPK. Contrary to appearances, it was not taken in 1956 with a twin-lens reflex camera.

My grandfathers were a drop-forge operator and a blacksmith. My father started the family profession of computer programming while a graduate student at Columbia University in 1958. He was in the third programming class ever taught by IBM, in 1960. I came along on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis, although I had very little to do with it.

I grew up in what we never called "silicon valley" back then. If I'd been smart and had wasted my youth playing arcade games, I could have been seriously rich. I went to the library instead.

My own undergraduate education resulted in a B.A. with a full double major in English & American Literature (with Highest Honors in the Major) and Computer & Information Science (meaning computer programming, not Library Science), with College Honors (Crown College) at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1984. I went on to a doctorate in English & American Literature at the University of California at San Diego in 1992. I studied the poetry of George Oppen, pretended to understand poststructuralist Theory, and wrote a dissertation halfway between literature and programming.

All of this, during the first Mr. Bush's recession, left me unemployable. So I helped a friend start a small software company where I had a relatively diverse career over 20 years - but, by intent, never a job title. I retired in 2012.

We moved to rural Wisconsin in the early 2000s. It's nice here. My wife, Rollande Krandall, was a folk musician (voice, mandolin, ocarina) and jeweler (glass beadworking, anime & steampunk costume jewelry). We had 29 years together, but she died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2017.

I've always been interested in old machines, intricate mechanisms, and beautiful mechanical details. Stationary steam engines, 18th century scientific instruments, mechanical timekeepers, and all of the tools, machines, and techniques of the traditional machine shop. And books; always books.

In 2008 I acquired my first Linotype. In 2010, at the American Typecasting Fellowship Conference in Piqua, Ohio, I saw a pre-release showing of the film Making Faces about the late Canadian type-maker Jim Rimmer. I could see my life changing as I watched it; I knew that from that point on I must do everything that this brilliant man had done. He was the kind of person who felt that the first thing to do when making a book was to design a new typeface for it - and to cut it with his own hands and tools for hot metal composition. I never met him, but his influence on my life has been beyond reckoning.

What I realized when I took up metal type as an avocation was that I had always been trying to do something halfway between art and technology. Typefounding is the perfect field for this. The casting surface of a typographical matrix is as concise an intersection of art and technology as possible: Without art, it isn't worth doing. Without technology, it can't be done at all.

In every area of metal type making there are people who are vastly more skilled and certainly more artistic than I will ever be. It is my privilege to count many of them as my friends. But there is one area where my strange and varied background allows me to give back to my community in a way which is less common in this field: research and writing.

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See also Books which Ruined My Life.