You Can Now Revisit the Most Popular Desktop Publishing App of the '80s in Your Browser

Dust off the dot-matrix printer and create retro-tastic birthday cards and banners at home with The Print Shop.

If you were lucky enough to own both a desktop computer and a dot-matrix printer back in the ‘80s, it’s likely you also dabbled in desktop publishing using a classic app called The Print Shop. Once lost to time, like many classic apps that ran on ancient hardware, The Print Shop has been resurrected in the browser so you no longer need to pay for Adobe InDesign.

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Originally developed by David Balsam and Martin Kahn and published, in 1984, by Broderbund Software (a name that anyone who grew up with a computer in the ‘80s was familiar with) The Print Shop first debuted on the Apple II but was such a huge hit that it was eventually ported to other personal computers of the era, including the Commodore 64, and anything that could run Microsoft’s MS-DOS.

Although impossibly simple by today’s desktop publishing standards, its ease-of-use is what made The Print Shop so popular, as users could combine clipart, custom text, and other pixelated adornments in minutes to create custom signage, cards, and even banners, thanks to the printer paper of the era being just one long sheet of perforated paper. The app was also a great selling tool for personal computers which, at the time, didn’t have a lot of practical applications aside from games, word processing, or spreadsheets.

If you have fond memories of the app like I do, instead of digging out your old Apple II or C64 and trying to hunt down a replacement ribbon for a printer that hasn’t been used in 30 years, just point your browser to Melody and April Ayres-Griffiths’ loving online recreation of The Print Shop which emulates the original Apple II version of the app.

Although my own memories of using The Print Shop are ever-fading, the online redux appears to be a perfect clone of the original, right down to the flashing “THINKING” and “PRINTING” screens you were presented with after sending your creation to the printer. I can remember the app taking so long to process and print that it thoroughly exhausted the limited patience of eight-year-old me, who would go and watch TV in another room until our extremely loud dot-matrix printer finally came to life. (The color Star NX-1000C, which I’m not sure why my brain prioritized as a critical thing to remember.)

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Although the emulated version of The Print Shop doesn’t directly send designs to a modern printer, it does generate a downloadable PDF file that you can easily print after the fact. My mother’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I just know she’s going to love this green, blue, yellow, and orange bespoke card I spent an entire ten minutes on. (No one spoil the surprise, please.)

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DISCUSSION

By
Mr. Furious

This brings a tear to my eye.

When I was a teenager in the late ‘80s, my dad was the local postmaster. I had The Print Shop for my C-128, and he asked me to make a sign that listed the Post Office’s hours. I worked very hard on it, and he put it up on the inside glass of the side entrance door.

He retired in 2004, and there was a fire at the Post Office a couple of years later. It didn’t burn down, but the USPS decided that it wasn’t worth renovating because they didn’t own the building (they’d tried to buy it many times over the years, but the owner wouldn’t budge) so they collapsed the lease and moved to a different location. His former co-workers joked that the building didn’t want to continue on without him, and they understood how it felt.

He died in 2012. Not long after that, I was back in the area, and on a lark stopped by to see if the dedication plaque was still there. Full disclosure, yes, I was going to steal it if it was, but it wasn’t - somebody had beaten me to it, and it wasn’t anyone from the USPS or any of his former co-workers.

But that sign was still there. If I could’ve retrieved it without breaking in, I would’ve. It may still be there, if no one’s smashed that door.