Firehouse Blog

Monthly Archive: March 2015

It’s Never NOT Communication

randyblogIt is with humble appreciation I greet you today, as this is my first post of my tenure as the new Chief Operating Officer of Firehouse. I have been with our company for over 21 years (yes, my Firehouse career is of drinking age), the onset of the digital realm of imaging, spending most of my time overseeing the IT structure of the company. One day that may be helping to develop systems that could automate our production, while others it meant I was climbing through the ceiling running wire. Our ability to automate graphics production has always been key in my mind, as I feel it will allow us to get product more accurately and quickly to our customers than ever before. I learned a lot from Terry Corman, CEO, and have been blessed to inherit a wonderful staff in this company. I am looking forward to this ride.

It seems only appropriate I’d begin this blog with a phrase which I’ve repeated ad nauseam throughout my Firehouse career. In fact, I can see staff members rolling their eyes upon reading it here. And that’s not just because of our security cameras allowing me to oversee all things at Firehouse like some tyrannical overlord stroking an ever-graying beard while plotting our next corporate move.

I have found that one of the keys to not only business success but being able to get through life in general is to attempt to have the most open and honest lines of communication possible. Maybe it’s my background coming into play (my degree is actually in broadcast journalism) or perhaps it’s that I simply don’t want to be surprised. Regardless of the reason,


I instill this phrase in my employees, because “I didn’t know that” should never be a valid excuse for a task not coming to completion.

Not to sound like a geezer (but hey, if this article comes with a picture of myself, you have the visual evidence to back that up), but communication has changed over the years and shows no signs of slowing. A century ago this year, we had our first US coast-to-coast long distance call. Today, we scoff at the idea of ‘long distance’, and many are scoffing at the idea of phones as well. In the 1990s, we could tell if our company was busy by how often the phone rang. Now they sit in silence as the vast bulk of our work is handled via email or other online transactions. The world is becoming faster and more efficient.

In theory, at least.

CommunicationMainImageWith advancements in technology, we now have more ways to communicate than at any time in history. This is something that should be celebrated, yes? Consider this: every person has a different preferred method of contact. Some like to be texted; some cringe when their phone vibrates. Some like to be called; others view it as completely out of date and annoying. No doubt you have your communication platform of choice as well, and it may contradict with your family’s or your company’s. But we all communicate however we can.

Recently, I had lost contact with a good friend of mine. Calls went unreturned, emails met a similar fate. I feared perhaps he was dead. I did my weekly Twitter check (obviously not my preferred form of communication), and saw Tweets a plenty from my friend. My relief soon turned to annoyance. After all, why had my friend ignored me? In his mind he hadn’t; he explained he had gotten my calls and emails, but now he only replied to Twitter messages.

For some strange reason, I get the feeling that as my son moves into his teenage years in the near future, I’ll be having conversations such as these regularly. Hmmmm.

As we move forward, I believe that we will continue to see divergence in communication, specifically in the business realms. It has always been Firehouse’s goal not to fight, but rather embrace changes in technology. Rest assured, that will continue to be true under my guidance. Should you have any suggestions how you would like to see Firehouse better communicate, I’m all ears.

Unless you are emailing, texting, or Tweeting. In that case, I’m all eyes and fingers I guess.

Hard to type with an earlobe, you know?

Randy Baer
Firehouse COO

Happy 25th Photoshop!

JonPicAnyone who’s been working with computers for over a decade (or more) enjoys waxing nostalgic about how things have changed over the years. With Photoshop just celebrating its 25th anniversary, it seems like an appropriate time to bring out the grumpy old man voice.

“In my day, we didn’t have terabytes or gigabytes, we had floppies and 44MB syquests!”
“Our Photoshop didn’t have layers, and we LIKED it!”
“A CD-ROM drive on your computer? Madness!”
“Now get back in the darkroom and process that slide film!”

Photoshop25It’s hard to believe that Photoshop has been a part of Firehouse for 25 years. I wrote an article 5 years ago for the 20th anniversary. I described finding an old archive of Photoshop 3 and running it on one of my ancient Macs. It made me realize how all the innovations with later versions are taken for granted. Grumpy old man is exaggerating, of course, but imagine working in Photoshop without layers. Try making selections and composites with only the lasso and magic wand tools. The earliest versions of Photoshop were much more limited. But, it was still ground-breaking software and a ton of fun.

Photoshop began life with the Knoll brothers, John and Thomas, in 1987. Thomas, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, was writing subroutines to display grayscale image levels on his Mac Plus’s monochrome monitor. His brother John became intrigued due to his own interest in image processing at special effects house Industrial Light and Magic. He recommended Thomas expand the project into an image editing program and include color editing. Thomas eagerly took his advice and continued adding features as John requested them.

The little app was initially named Display and later ImagePro. John was convinced they could turn their project into a commercial venture and began gauging interest around Silicon Valley. In 1988, BarneyScan offered to bundle the application (now named Photoshop) with its slide scanner. About 200 copies of Photoshop were sold with the scanners. In late 1988, John presented a demo of Photoshop to Adobe and a legend was born. After many months of development, Adobe Photoshop 1.0 was released in February 1990.

Firehouse was an early adopter of Photoshop and I still recall my initial experiments that summer on Firehouse’s first Mac. At that time, we had no practical application for the software. Compositing images and text was all done with film and lithos in the darkroom. It was a tedious process which could take hours. And, after waiting at the exit of the film processor and seeing there was a mistake, many more hours. I vividly recall a conversation with Firehouse CEO Terry Corman in late 1990. He told me some day I’d just be sitting in front of a Mac to do my job and the stat cameras, darkrooms and photo enlargers would all be obsolete. It sounded like science fiction. And it happened even faster that any of us could have predicted. Within a year, Macs had replaced our antiquated slide production facility. Film recorders replaced darkrooms and then photo printers replaced film recorders.

25 years later and Photoshop remains an essential piece of the digital printing puzzle. So, thanks John and Thomas.

In honor of the 25th anniversary, noted Photoshop Evangelist Terry White made a tribute video running Photoshop version 1.0. And below that, we have John Knoll himself working in Photoshop 1.0. Enjoy.


Jon Heilman
Marketing Director