Pages in topic:   [1 2 3 4] >
Off topic: Translation before the internet
Thread poster: Nicolas Clochez

Nicolas Clochez  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:22
English to French
+ ...
Jun 12, 2013

Hi!

I have been working as a translator for a few years now, and I realized I have always been working with the Internet. I don't know how translators used to work before the Internet age - what about the deadlines, the tools, the ways of communicating a text to one another?

I would be very interested if some translators who started before the internet described the whole process!

Thanks

Nicolas


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:22
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I started in 1993 Jun 12, 2013

Luckily I started translating at a time when word processors were in use.

A typical scenario at that time was:

- An agency would call you on the phone and ask if you were available.

- If yes, they would fax you a few sample pages of the document. You needed a dedicated fax land line or you needed to switch your phone to fax mode (which meant you could not take regular calls). You had to be VERY sure it was something you could translate because there was no KudoZ or other internet help (although FLEFO eventually came along). You really had to know what you were doing back then and you had to know your source language(s) well. You could ask for help in the ATA Chronicle, but the answer sometimes did not come for several months.

- If you accepted the project, they would either fax you the document (which for long documents could take several hours) or they would send it by express mail (one or two days) - meaning you had to wait at home for the package to arrive.

- You would then translate the document (sometimes from curly fax pages because unlike today, faxes were on continuous rolls of thermal paper and when you manually cut the pages the edges tended to curl), looking up words in paper dictionaries (I invested over $5,000 in paper dictionaries at the time), making trips to university libraries, calling specialists and doing the best you could.

- Once the document was complete, you had to wait until business hours in order to return it to the agency because...

- You had to call the agency and arrange an appointment time to send them the completed file via computer modem (both parties had to be on the telephone and one party had to press send on the modem software and the other had to press receive at the same time).

- The process of uploading the file (at the slow speeds at the time) took anywhere from five minutes to an hour (while you may or may not remain on your other line chatting with the PM or dedicated IT person in case something went wrong in the middle of the transmission - which often happened - and you had to start over).

- The entire process would then be repeated for the editing.

- You would then print and send an invoice by regular mail.

An interesting side note is that when e-mail first became available, many agencies refused to use it for security reasons.

I miss the personal phone contact with the project managers, but I like the fact that I can send projects when I finish them. For example, if a project is due on Monday morning and I have something else to do, I can send the document on Sunday night. Under the old method, you had to wait until normal business hours (and when another translator was not using that agency's modem) and it was more difficult to make plans.

The positive side was that I often had much more time to complete a project (sometimes an entire month for one or two pages) and, unlike today, I often had six to seven jobs going at the same time.


[Edited at 2013-06-12 17:59 GMT]


 

Nicolas Clochez  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:22
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jun 12, 2013

Thank you! That's very enlighteningicon_smile.gif

I don't think I would have loved to be a translator at that time...the process was so lenghty!


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
1971 Jun 12, 2013

Yes, I started back in the dinosaur age, 1971. It was strictly a local market on the U.S.-Mexico border where there was a need for translation. I worked through an agency (actually a school) and our contact was of course personal. All that was used was paper, always hand-delivered. I worked with pencil and paper, which meant mountains of legal pads. I had to be careful with my handwriting (now unused) because it was all transcibed by a typist, and then had to be proofed and corrected before delivery to the client. Sometimes clients' print proofs had to be corrected.

Understandably, no client could expect to get work back on an urgent basis. No one could provide such service. I was protected by the agency/school in such a way that I did not have to deal with rush jobs, because I had other employment and my time was limited. They would set loose deadlines for delivery. Also, I had the local translation market pretty much to myself. I have no way to measure it, but I think I did quite a bit to actually develop that market and show that good translation service did exist. Business eventually increased to the point where I was able (in 1986) to quit my other employment and go full-time in translating and interpreting.

Because of loose deadlines, I had time for research, but it was not easy because I was limited to libraries or searching bookstores for good references to purchase. I had to depend a lot on my own knowledge and intuition, and occasionally other experts I could consult. Fortunately I consider that I was quite well-prepared before even starting out, and that really helped.

Somewhere along the way "memory typewriters" were developed and then word-processors and then the Net. Finally we became able to attach files to e-mails, paper documents could be scanned and sent by e-mail and all sorts of other possibilities came forth, including unlimited research resources at one's fingertips.

I am still in the same place and do business with many local direct clients as well as others farther away. At least from my point of view, my situation is far better than most here on Proz. My start in the dinosaur age was part of my education, and it has made me what I am today.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Around 1995 Jun 12, 2013

Although the Internet and the web already existed, when I started as a freelancer in 1995 my means of communicating with customers and even finding new customers was a service called Compuserve. Access to it was dial-up with a modem, at the amazing speed of 33K baud (bit per second), which is 0,033 mbits (compare with today's minimum speeds of one mbit).

After that came proper Internet with a proper email server, also accessed via a dial-up connection, still with the modem, and after that a nice but costly ISDN connection.

The first time I saw a DSL line operating, at a customer agency in California, was in 1998 I think. Its 500 kbits/s were simply breathtaking. I could not stop staring at the throughput when my customer downloaded files.

So indeed things were really slow back then. Things are a lot easier today.

[Edited at 2013-06-13 14:38 GMT]


 

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Post, 'phones, typewriters/early word processors and [physical] dictionaries Jun 12, 2013

That was the sum of it... and with plenty of time to produce quality work. We've commoditised words and process it all like machines now.

 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
I go back even further... Jun 12, 2013

I became a full-time translator in 1988, before word processors. In fact I remember seeing a two-page ad in the Sunday Times magazine for the Amstrad PCW 8256 and coveting it like I'd never coveted anything before. Some people used Compuserve, but most didn't have email.

Most of my customers were within a 10-mile radius of my home in northwest London. I used to send jobs by post, or by cab or motorcycle courier (do they still have those?), or deliver them by bicycle myself if they were super urgent. Customers often used to invite me in for a cup of coffee - they were human beings, not faceless email addresses.

I moved to south London, and worried that I'd lose all my customers. I didn't. Much more recently, I moved to the United States, and they STILL stayed with me - the average customer is now not ten miles away, but 4,500.

One customer sent all their translators a letter offering to sell their small, secondhand desktop fax machine for over £800. They said: "We know these aren't very common yet, but they are the technology of the future."

I was too cheap to fork out £63 for the big two-volume Langenscheidt German-English dictionary, so I used to phone my local library and ask them to look up words for me.

In those days, people weren't obsessed with making the translation look like an exact replica of the original. If it was a complicated form or diagram, you could handwrite the translation on it. Recently, a customer blew his top at me because I'd used a different font and hadn't copied the company's logo onto the top of my translation.

God, this is making me feel old...






[Edited at 2013-06-12 20:55 GMT]


 

Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
German to English
...CAUTION: the following contains a reference to "null modem cable"... Jun 12, 2013

I had a wax tablet, or to be precise an Amstrad PCW in the late 1980s which was later actually useable to transfer files via BBS or Odyssey and even squirt text into early QuarkXpress via null modem cable. A WordStar clone was your friend.
Documents arrived by fax, if I didn't pedal across town in person to pick them up, perhaps stopping to do some research at the BritMus Reading Room or Patent Office on the way back.
Tomas mentions Compuserve above - 'they' have faithfully maintained my original e-mail address from 1995 through their several reincarnations to this day. I think you could still get through to me using the numeric address if I would only let on...

I still send my invoices by snail mail if at all possible.

Tell that to the kids of today...


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Jun 12, 2013

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

You could ask for help in the ATA Chronicle, but the answer sometimes did not come for several months.



[Edited at 2013-06-12 17:59 GMT]


Which, of course, you can still do. I keep expecting The Translation Inquirer to disappear through lackof use, but the questions keep coming...


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
1953 Jun 12, 2013

I started in the RAF in 1953, but I'd better not write about that, as I signed the Official Secrets Act at the time, even though a lot about that work is now common knowledge.
From 1963 I worked for the BBC Monitoring Service. This was translating Soviet Radio (and later Moscow TV) news, articles etc. It was done on heavy old manual typewriters. Recordings were not electronic, they were made by needles on a plastic belt. Duplication was on "Banda" machines, which used a purple ink that came off onto your hands. Electronic recording and electric typewriters came in in the late 70s. Computers were introduced in 1989. I retired in 1990.
I also started freelance translation in 1965, and have continued it in retirement. I mostly used my own dictionaries, but I was fortunate to have the BBC's facilities and colleagues to ask in case of difficulty. After retiring, I bought a computer (an Amstrad 1640) a dot matrix printer and a fax machine and carried on from there. The Amstrad cost over GBP1,000 in 1991 pounds and would be considered utterly useless nowadays. Word had not been invented. I started by using LocoScript as a word processor but had to get WordPerfect as that was what most agencies wanted at the time, but even that was not "WYSIWIG" then.
My subsequent experience has been similar to that of previous contributors to this topic.


 

Nicolas Clochez  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:22
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
sdfds Jun 12, 2013

Thanks all! I didn't expect testimonies from different decades, but it is actually very interesting to see the evolution.

 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:22
English to German
+ ...
Early 80s Jun 13, 2013

Before there were fax machines and email, the secretary at our advertising agency used a mysterious and monstrous machine to correspond with clients: Teletex.

Sounds primitive? We were just as successful as any other "modern" company. Whenever we wanted to visit with a client to present our work, we drove Mercedes or booked a flight. For whatever reason I really do miss those times.


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:22
German to English
+ ...
I started a little later - 1997 Jun 13, 2013

But at my job at the time I remember getting hard copy and faxed docs from clients who needed estimates, so we would count characters and lines and try to estimate from the hard copy. I like word count much better!

 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:22
English to German
+ ...
Quick question: What does "sdfds" mean? Jun 13, 2013

NClochez wrote:

Thanks all! I didn't expect testimonies from different decades, but it is actually very interesting to see the evolution.


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 18:52
English to Hindi
+ ...
1985 : Pen and paper, to begin with Jun 13, 2013

Officially I started in 1985 when I landed a job in an environmental education centre soon after college, in fact, even before the final results were out. This was a centre newly started and they hired me on the condition that I passed the graduation exam. Fortunately I did, and I continued working with the centre for the two decades in various capacities until I quit in favour of a freelance career.

I remember the early days well. It was dominated by sturdy, large, black Godrej typewriters, and when there were several of them in a room, wow, they could make quite a clatter.

I was not exactly a translator there, as I had been taken in as an English Writer, but my interest was more in Hindi and I had to campaign hard and long in the organization to be accepted as a Hindi writer. In the end a compromise was reached with me doing both English and Hindi work, and that is how I became a translator.

The way we used to translate was with pen and paper keeping at our elbows large paper dictionaries. Since there were three or four of us in the room doing the same thing, often we would simply shout across to others about a term on which we needed help and get the answer immediately, a process much faster than the kudoz system here, which too is fast thanks to the quick-finger, point-hungry respondees that lurk every kudoz forum.

We would do two drafts on paper, one a rough first translation, followed by a revised one, which would then go to the editor, who also occupied the same room. He would quickly red-line the translation and return it for amendments. This process would go on till an error free version was achieved.

The next stage was manually typing the whole thing which would be done by fast specialist typists. They would make three carbon copies. The original went to the client or end user and often it would be on the official letter-head, the other two would be carefully filed away for future reference in large, numbered steel cabinets.

But the typewriter reign came to an end sometime in 1990 when our office acquired the first computers. Both the PC and the Mac were simultaneously acquired, though later, the cost factor (Macs were killingly costly though much sturdier and less crash-prone) decided things in favour of the PCs.

The computers were immensely popular with us, not because they were useful - most of us were Luddites to begin with and vehemently opposed their introduction on many specious grounds - but because they were kept in a separate room which was completely air-conditioned. In India, where room temperatures in summer can soar to 40 degree C, sneaking into an airconditioned room maintained at 21 degrees C for the benefit of the health of the computers, was a temptation none of us could avoid, and we perfected various excuses for spending maximum time in the computer room.

The computers had no hard disks worth mentioning. All work was saved on the large, flexible black floppies. Some computers had two floppy disc drives and in one of them, you had to insert the floppy containing the word-processing programme (WordStar it was and later Word Perfect, and the OS was DOS) and on the other, the floppy on which you saved your work.

There was no internet of course.

The first typewriter I personally acquired was a portable Hindi Remington, which served me long, until I bought an electronic bilingual Godrej typewriter which could type in both English and Hindi (you had to change the daisy wheel to change the language). It also had a minute memory in which a few pages of text could be saved. I opted to buy this at an astronomical sum of Rs. 35,000 mainly because the PCs were even more costlier in those days, costing above Rs. 100,000, which was way beyond my means.

But soon computer prices crashed and I acquired my first personal computer at around Rs. 20,000. Curiously, it came by post from a Delhi-based distributor (I was in Ahmedabad at that time). It was similar to the one in my office. It had no mouse, only the keyboard as the input tool, and the monitor was b/w.

Internet came much later, I think it was in the early 1990s that I got the first dial-up modem based internet connection in my home.

That really revolutionized things for me, for I soon discovered proz.com and managed to muster up the courage to quit my job and take up full-time freelancing as a translator.

Now I use the latest available technology including various CAT tools, speech to text software, high speed internet and cloud-based services.



[2013-06-13 14:10 GMT पर संपादन हुआ]


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2 3 4] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Translation before the internet

Advanced search







Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for ProZ.com users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through ProZ.com. Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search