Who is a Printer?

In the last few years, I have been startled by trying to answer this question of who a printer really is, the more I try the more confusing it gets….

Listen to this “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know”

The above statement is a famous Groucho Marx joke that takes advantage of the fact that the same sentence can often be interpreted in more than one way. While someone will interpret the first sentence to mean: The man shot an elephant while he was wearing his pajamas, another person could interpret it to mean, the man shot an elephant that was wearing his pajamas. In all fairness It’s unclear who is wearing the pajamas—the man or the elephant. It won’t be out of place to interpret the sentence the first way and subsequently get confused to read the second part of the joke.

Some facts about printing are however clear — it is technical so the course is referred to as Printing Technology in some institutions of higher learning.

Now those who teach printing, are they themselves printers or teachers?

Let’s back up a bit to the root of this “confusion”. Till date people can become printers by apprenticeship, simply put an Apprentice is a person who works for another in order to learn a trade: Historically, a person legally bound through indenture to a master craftsman (in this case a printer) in order to learn that trade (printing) after running the cause become a printer. This is not out of place because easily we can see in Nigeria that mechanical or automobile engineers also have to live with “mechanics”. Simply because most of the mechanics also learnt the trade by apprenticeship.

According to Wikipedia, Surulere Local Government in Lagos State, Nigeria, has a land area of 23 square Kilometer, and as at the last census in the year 2006, there were 503,975 inhabitants, with a population density of 21,864 inhabitants per square kilometer. Growing up in Surulere I only know of two auto mechanic workshop managed by a graduate of Mechanical engineering, meanwhile there is a mechanic workshop in every neighborhood.

Back to the printing industry, I have met lawyers, medical doctors, Architects, pharmacists, engineers just to mention a few in the trade. Are they printers? Meanwhile I have heard the arguments that a non-pharmacist or non-medical doctor cannot run a chemist or hospital respectively but again this profession has a direct effect on human life so it is understandable that they are much regulated. Then I have heard that the law profession also will never allow a non-lawyer defend someone in court. I agree but it has been established that this professions cannot be entered into by apprenticeship.

So you thought this write up is about answering the question? No it’s not, it’s about us expanding our open hearted nature and fashion out a way to define who a printer really is for the benefit of the elite and non-elites alike. So that labours of our heroes past (who mostly came in as apprentice) will not be in vain.

I ask again “who is a printer?” Compliments of the season.

Thoughts from: Akin Oduwole
CE @ Technology Global

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