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Off topic: back in the day... what was this industry like, say, 15 years ago?
Thread poster: Anthony Baldwin

Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:05
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Aug 23, 2007

I only entered this industry after the advent of the internet,
with access to clients around the world, a computer and technology
tools to do the work, etc.

I´m interested in knowing what this industry was like for you really old people
who were doing this back in the stone ages, like, you know, 15 years ago
or so, when you had to walk 5 miles up hill both ways in two feet of
snow to get to the office and carve your translations on stone tablets,
look up difficult terms on papyrus scrolls...all that stuff.

How did you typically work? What tools did you use (you know, besides
turkey quills and chisels)? Where did you find your clients? Was there a good market for freelancers,
or did you have to work in-house or affiliate yourself with an agency, live in urban centers
where translations were in demand, etc.?

How much has modern technology revolutionized your work experience?
Just how easy DO I have it?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-08-23 13:25]


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:05
French to English
what an interesting subject Aug 23, 2007

I have often wondered the same thing ... I've had internet access since I was in high school, and couldn't imagine working without it !

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:05
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
My stoneage Aug 23, 2007

The first time I was asked to deliver a translation (for a private person) I wrote it with ballpoint pen on A4 paper with the aid of my schooldays English-German dictionary. And I forgot to ask for payment or feedback, because it was for a friend of my wife.

The second time was in 1992, when I wrote the translation (subject waste deposition) on my Atari ST using 1st Word "word processor", which needed manual line breaks after each line. That time I got paid quite well.

But I only started professional freelancing in 2000, with Win98.

Regards
Heinrich


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Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:05
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
look at all the young people ;-) Aug 23, 2007

Am I really so old with my 43 years?
I remember, how proud I have been about my first typewriting machine, where I could store and correct one (1) whole sentence before typing it.

I am sure you don't know, how a telex machine is working - that with the yellow endless stripe?

In former times (haha) the postman did not only provide letters with invoices etc. No, he brought orders, nice letters from friends (you call that e-mail or sms today) - and the best of all - I did survive it


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Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:05
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
not old Aug 23, 2007

Capesha wrote:

Am I really so old with my 43 years?
I remember, how proud I have been about my first typewriting machine, where I could store and correct one (1) whole sentence before typing it.

I am sure you don't know, how a telex machine is working - that with the yellow endless stripe?

In former times (haha) the postman did not only provide letters with invoices etc. No, he brought orders, nice letters from friends (you call that e-mail or sms today) - and the best of all - I did survive it


I´m 38, myself.
You´re the same age as my wife (cradle robber that she is...)
I just got a late start in this industry.
I was a public school teacher previously.
I remember actually writing letters and mailing them as a child.
I remember manual typewriters, even, too.


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Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:05
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
thanks Aug 23, 2007

That's a nice answer - i really felt old in regard to this question

I remember my first translation:
I did it per ball-pen and paper with dictionary and afterwards I typed it with the machine.
Unbelievable from my today's view.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:05
Member (2004)
English to Italian
1991 Aug 23, 2007

In 1991 I already had a PC, an Amstrad. You just received the translation by post and snail-mailed it back... I used a typewriter for my dissertation at Uni.

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Evelyne Antinoro  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:05
German to Italian
+ ...
1979 Aug 23, 2007

I was only 19 years old.
I went to the Agency in Milan with a bus, to take the translation.
I wrote it with my typewriting machine.
Than back to the Agency to deliver the translation, it needed half a day only for the delivery!
1984 my first PC Olivetti M24, with Wordstar....
For the delivery always the bus, but with a dischette.
Stoneage!


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Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:05
German to English
File uploads etc Aug 23, 2007

Anyone remember mastering Kermit modem protocols on an IBM AT, and the like to upload texts to agencies? Research often involved visiting bricks-and-mortar libraries, and preparing text on my ancient Amstrad PCW then transferring it into early Quark/PageMaker on a colleague's Mac. I've only used e-mail since 1995 (my Compuserve address, still going strong today) but even two years before that things were very different. Fax was common delivery route as was a typewriter for invoices.
No going back
DB


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 03:05
Turkish to English
+ ...
Similar thread Aug 23, 2007

You may also be interested in looking at a thread I once started entitled "How did the translation industry work before there was fax?"
http://www.proz.com/post/290121#290121


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 02:05
French to Dutch
+ ...
1985 Aug 23, 2007

I learnt typing on a typewriter, but used all kinds of wordprocessors since 1974, because most big companies were already equipped. The first wordprocessing machines had magnetic cards, and you could stock your text on it (1 page per card, for a report of 100 pages you needed 100-110 cards), but no screen. In 1980 we had the so-called IBM System 5, with a small screen of five or ten lines, this was a BIG progress. But in the company where I worked, the independent translators translated on a typewriter, or sometimes had a secretary or their wife typing the translations. In 1985 I bought my first IBM-PC with two floppy disk drives and without a harddisk. It had 512 ko RAM and the computer shop told me that I never would need 640 ko as long as I was doing wordprocessing. For this we had a dozen of programs, such as the famous Wordstar which didn't have a line wrap and a so-called Textor which only could make files of four pages (for five pages you needed two files, etc.), and of course Word Perfect, which did things correctly but was rather complicated. I did wordprocessing, typing and a bit of layout with Pagemaker 1.01A (this one NEVER crashed, a miracle!). My work was to pass the translated documents from one program to another, to add figures and tables and to verify if everything was complete. I never knew why some translators bought those Amstrads, they were highly incompatible, it was not better than a typewriter. One of my colleagues translated a whole dictionary on it, with spaces between the language columns, and the publishing house had to retype everything.

[Bijgewerkt op 2007-08-23 14:43]


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 20:05
German to English
Typewriter until 1982, then PC Aug 23, 2007

My first paid translation was in 1969 when I was still a student. I translated only occasionally throughout the 1970s. When working on a typewriter, you had to get the translation right the first time, even if you had a "memory" typewriter, since the memory only held a few sentences.


In 1982 I bought my first computer (CP/M system) and quit my job at a financial institution.

My first computer with printer cost over $3000. I divided my time between technical writing (on-site) and translating. I hand-delivered my translation jobs either in hard copy (or fax) or on floppies (back when they were genuinely floppy, but there were format compatibility issues with CP/M systems). As my translating activities increased, I acquired an "IBM-compatible" computer, and a modem (1200 baud -- state-of -the-art!) and started sending ascii files to various agencies/direct clients. My rate was a laughable 6 cents (US)/word.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, WordPerfect was the wordprocessor of choice for many, if not most US translators.

I moved to Germany in 1990 and returned in 1994. By then the Internet was gaining widespread use, but broadband was still in its infancy among non-industrial users. Internet connect was via dial-up at first, and a 56K modem was considered fast. Like many people, I subscribed to AOL, succumbing to the avalanche of CDs that came in the mail. I eventually quit AOL, but I had to cancel my credit card, as it was virtually impossible to unsubscribe otherwise.

Of course, things are much different now. Almost anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can call him/herself a "translator." Judging by some of the queries I've seen on Proz, owning a dictionary doesn't seem to be a prerequisite.

In a slightly different vein, I noticed that one of the national translators' associations requires that its qualification examination be completed by hand, unless the examinee is disabled, in which case he/she can use a typewriter. Although I've been in this business for a while, I've never hand written a translation. I wouldn't know how to do it. It's been a long time since I've done anything by hand, apart from composing thank-you notes and compiling shopping lists.

[Edited at 2007-08-23 18:19]


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IwonaASzymaniak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:05
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
An Old Lady and Her Typewriter Aug 23, 2007

I know that at 52 I seem as old as Mother Eva but I have never thought "old" about myself. I must be very inmature if I have not realized how old I am.

Using a typewriter... I hated it then, and tried to encourage my first husband to invent a machine that would write itself as I spoke. He was a young engineer, and I had always believed that it was enough to want something very much to make it happen. It did happen but not the way I thought and someone else came up with my bright idea.

My first typewriter was an old one my Mom had used before she bought herself a new one. She was a journalist and always typed her articles herself because nobody could ever read her handwriting.

My typewriter rattled a lot, and had smaller fonts than usual which was a source of never-ending arguments with my clients. They tried to pay me per typed page while there were more characters and lines than on a standard page (in Poland, a standard translation unit is a page containing 1800 characters which is 60 characters per line and 30 lines per page). As I said, my pages had more of both.
That typewriter was a mechanical device not even electric. Then I worked as a translator in the Mexican Embassy in Warsaw and there, I had a decent electric typewriter with a small correcting mechanism (it was a white tape that stuck to the paper and left a sort of chalky powder on a misspelled letter/word leaving it white so that you could type over the correct text without having to correct your translation by hand or retype it over and over again when you came up with a brighter idea). And that simple thing made a big difference.
But being a lazy person and hating typing as much as handwriting, I was probably one of the first PC users in Poland. I had one when they were not readily available because of a stupid US embargo on hi-tech products. It was a huge desktop brought from the US with a 110V/220V convertor almost as big as the desktop itself. It was ugly but at that time, I thought it was the nicest, and most beautifful and friendliest thing I could ever imagine.
And guess what, it is amazing how soon it became obsolete and good for nothing. And so on, and so on. It happened to so many of my PCs which I got rid off but the typewriter is still sitting somewhere in the attic of my house.
Now we have printers that print huge texts in a matter of minutes, or even better we do not have to print our translations but only "click" them to our customers.
I do not miss my typewriter times at all. But do not regret I had to do it, either. How could I tell you my story if I hadn't typewritten so many texts in my life!?
I think that typewriting was as hard as carving letters with a chisel. Especially when you had to make more than one copy or type on stencil paper sheets. Most of you may not know what those were for. Try to guess.

I wish I could imagine how translating will look like in 100 years from now.


Iwona


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:05
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
80's Aug 23, 2007

The very first translation I was paid for I was still Studying at Trieste's Scuola Interpreti. I had to dictate it to my customer's secretary, who took it down in shorthand.

After graduation, I started working in 1984-1985 - at first using an electronic typewriter (a graduation gift from my parents: my theses had been typed on a mechanical one), which was soon replaced by a dedicated word processor (which used CP/M as the OS - launched from 5 1/4" floppy disks), which, in its turn, gave way to my first PC (an 8086 machine running DOS 4, with 640 KB of RAM, a 10 MB hard drive, and a black-and-green monitor).

I started connecting to online BBS (precursors of the Web - but strictly character-based) fairly early on: probably in 1986 or 1987, and soon discovered FLEFO, Compuserve's wonderful forum for language professionals (kind of like the ProZ of the day); since there were no IdiotPointZ, the average quality of the answers one tended to get was quite a bit higher than here.

There is quite a bit of software I still sometimes miss from my DOS days: my word processor of choice was XYWrite III: it could run from a single floppy, if necessary, was blazing fast, programmable (much more so than MS Word is, in fact, even though with a more difficult programming language), and I've yet to find a thing Word can do that XYWrite could not do, and better.

Dictionaries were strictly on paper, customers limited to my home town, at first, but then (after I bought a fax machine (thermal paper only) also from nearby cities in North Italy.

Serious research was limited to the books held in my home town's main library - fortunately, Genoa's main library was excellent, but research was hindered by the fact that the only available library catalog, back then was on paper files.


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Rui de Carvalho  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:05
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well, I just noticed I'm really old Aug 23, 2007

Because I started translating for living in 1969 with a small typewriter. This turned, 20 years later, into a typewriter trying to resemble a computer, those complicated Phillips machines – but corrections were so much easier. The first Word processor worthy the name, as I remember, came out around 1988. There was no Proz along all those years, just the Yellow Pages, yet there was always a great deal of work in the translation sector. Of course things are much easier today for translators as well as for clients. For younger people, let me say I never heard about a translation agency before the 80s. It was also about that time that the translation sector has welcome the main rule of other professions: Those who how to translate, simply do translation; those who never heard about translation, either teach translation or, more recently, set up weird ISO standards where someone translates and another person, normally knowing nothing about languages or the domain, carry out the so-called «proofing». I can sum up the result of this evolution on a simple fact of my life: 30 years ago I was still able to read the Portuguese version of any book or article. I don't touch a Portuguese translation for more than 20 years because a lot of them ended up out of the window and for some bigger volume there was an obvious risk for by-passers.

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