John W. Seybold, Typesetting Pioneer, Dead at 88


John W. Seybold, an innovator in the field of computerized typesetting, died of heart failure Sunday in Haverford, Pa., according to today’s New York Times. He was 88.

According to the Times, Seybold was a longtime printing industry executive in Philadelphia when he was inspired by a primitive computerized hyphenation system that he saw in use at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1963. Seybold later founded his own company, Research on Computer Applications in the Printing and Publishing Industries (Rocappi), which did research and development on computerized typesetting.

“”In 1964 Rocappi produced the first computer-typeset product guide, an automotive directory for McGraw-Hill,”” the Times reported. “”The project made heavy use of macros, programs to simplify the repetitive creation of listings, an application that Mr. Seybold pioneered.””

According to John Seybold’s son Andrew, John was the first to use the phrase “”what you see is what you get”” in reference to word processing, after television star Flip Wilson used the phrase to describe his female alter ego Geraldine. “”The phrase came to be abbreviated as WYSIWYG and was popularized by computer systems developed at the Palo Alto Research Center of Xerox in the early 1970s,”” the Times reported.

Seybold started The Seybold Report, an industry newsletter, with another son, Jonathan, in 1971.

As a consultant for U.S. News & World Report, Seybold reportedly played a crucial role in the magazine’s decision in 1972 to become the first customer for Atex Publishing Systems Corp. — which later become a dominant player in computer typesetting.

Seybold’s children continue to be active in computer fields. Jonathan created Seybold Seminars and trade shows. Andrew is a consultant in mobile computing. And Patricia consults on computing issues for corporations.

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