What is a Kluge?
“Kluge” is a word common around computer and hardware systems and is an unfortunate appropriation of a German family name. The term kluge (often misspelled “kludge”) refers to a “clunky, unpolished, quickly thrown together,” workaround or patch that results in a difficult to maintain or repair system.
I knew that the term likely came from the Kluge paper feeder and offset printing systems from the early 1900s. It surprised me to find in Missoula a near-working Kluge offset in a custom print business. They were in the process of repairing the Kluge to get it to print foil embossing. A quick study of the Kluge and comparison to other offset printing devices gives you an idea of how the unit earned the reputation–and why the term became common. When they work, they work beautifully. Maintenance and repair is difficult.
Here’s a link in Wikipedia to give you a more or less complete rundown on the term.
One of the scheduled events at the Montana Book Festival was a printing demonstration using a Golding offset printing press. Probably circa 1890, the device weighed about 350-400 pounds. The frame is cast iron and the mechanism works smooth as butter. The owners of this letterpress adapted it in the “make-ready” process to use more modern materials, including polymer plates. That disk in the picture is the ink plate. The rollers smear the ink around on it and apply it to the image plate, which then presses the ink on the paper. It is an amazing process to watch.
Yes, I found all this pretty interesting and exciting. I started working in newspapers when some were still printed using offset and moveable type. I was witness to the transition from hot lead to digital typesetting. Seeing this old stuff and watching it work was very nostalgic. The smell of the ink and oil, the sound of the mechanism as it worked, brought back a lot of memories.
The Kluge and some other devices were at Noteworthy Paper & Press in Missoula. If you visit, you’ll find a lot of custom printed things.
I visited Valley Christian School for my part of the Youth Festival and got to talk to the high school senior AP english class. After a short read from Sudden Mission, I lead them through an exercise in creating a fictional character using a character sketch. I had fun and I hope the students did, as well.
Saturday was the book fair at the Holiday Inn, and everyone had their books available. Here’s a pic of my books among the others on one table.
I had a great time at the festival and I hope they can keep it going.