The XL7700 Digital Color Printer

Digital AV WS

The XL7700 Color Digital Printer was released in 1989. It shipped, however, without any drivers to allow you to send images to it. Marketing had said developers would line up for the opportunity to write a driver for the XL7700 printer. And they thought developers would pay Kodak a proposed $7700 fee for the opportunity, too. Ha! At the time, the way only to demonstrate the color printer was to push the test print button, and after a minute and a half, out would pop a print with a B&W checkerboard pattern. Wow, nice color print, NOT! I'd been arguing with marketing about the need to provide some basic driver software. Developers weren't exactly beating a path to our door yet.

Then marketing asked me to design an application/utility for the XL7700. As I got into the early prototype stage, the feature list seemed to grow every week. The software had to do image editing, rotation, cropping, place type and so on. I realized it could take a couple more years to ship a product as complicated as they desired.

Adobe had just annnouced Photoshop officially in early 1990. I told my new supervisor, Jim, that Adobe Photoshop was going to be a number one seller within a year. I also mentioned to him that Photoshop supported plug-ins, and I suggested we develop an export module for the XL7700 to provide a quick printing solution. He gave me (and my coding partner, Craig) a month to prove the feasiblity. I designed the module and Craig coded it. Bob C. did the work of creating LUT's (lookup tables), for correcting prints by picking different tables. We had it working in three weeks.

And it worked great! We had created a default lookup table to match most Mac monitors, nearly every print came out looking pretty much like what you saw on your monitor. And especially, NOW, I could make larger prints of my new digital artworks.

In 1990, I was sent, along with the beta export module, to MacWorld. Not to announce it, but to show it to a select few. I was in a back room, off the show floor, with a Mac IIFx, an XL7700, the export module, and lots of ribbon and print materials. John M, the marketing person, would send any photographers, artists, and even some Hollywood SFX artists, who wandered into the main booth in Moscone Hall, back to see me. I had a blast showing off the printer by printing their digital files for them. Everyone was amazed by the digital print quality. And they would do a great job in demandinig the local SF print shop buy one, ASAP. Sales of the XL7700 began to take off as word spread that you could print directly from Photoshop, and with the quality of a photographic print. The XL7700 export module was the third Macinstosh digital software product Kodak shipped.

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