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ATPM 15.02
February 2009






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by Mark Tennent,

Phone Bills and Forms

What a difference a decade has made to telephone bills. We realised it after a reply was left for us this week on a column from ATPM 12.09. All good stuff too, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Back in 1990, when we got our first modem and thought faxes were a neat way to communicate, we needed four telephone lines: one each for conversation and one each for our fax machines. Sending and receiving files involved long-distance telephone calls, which only became local as the Internet took off. In those days, Mistral, our first ISP, was a back bedroom in Brighton, stuffed full of modems, and a front garden with a permanent telecom trench for the ever-increasing number of cables.

It was not unusual to have a monthly telephone bill of £150, which grew to £300 when we bonded the two lines together to get BT’s ISDN. That must have been the worst-value narrowband transmission going. But at least it was quicker than modem alone. One Christmas Eve, I transmitted an urgent file by XMODEM to the same ICL factory where a motorcycle courier was taking a delivery. He collected the package and drove the 150 miles, arriving quicker than the file, which was less than a couple of floppy disks in size.

When Mistral offered ADSL, we were among its first customers. Our monthly phone bill shrank to £100, which was mainly for the ADSL line. We thought this was quite reasonable at the time. Fast forward to now, and broadband and hosting are less than thirty quid a month, the telephone bill is less than twenty, and the cost of calls is a couple of quid because we use the 18185 system. This brilliant service is free after a one-time Web registration, and most calls and SMS texts, even international, cost zero pence. You pay for the connection only, five pence usually.

Forms Become Headaches

The recession has hit us severely, our U.S. publishers haven’t ordered any books, UK publishers are laying off staff, and no one has work for us. After sitting out too much of last year, it is time to apply for jobs. This is not something we do with any enthusiasm after working from our own office for the last twenty years.

Consequently, we have been completing a zillion forms, one over 28 pages long. Some have been created in Word, which lets us type in the information; but others are PDFs. Even though Adobe’s latest versions of Acrobat Pro include editable forms (with Adobe Reader), none of the forms we’ve had to complete have this feature. Short of finding a typewriter or opening each page in Illustrator, the only way we could fill the forms in was by creating a document in InDesign or XPress with a PDF page on each document page, then inserting text across the top of the blank spaces. That’s easy for a short form, but longer ones can take ages to make.

In the end, we wrote in block capitals in our best handwriting—which is illegible even to us. So we hope no one can read it enough to offer us a job. Meanwhile, Obama wields his mighty axe and kills the recession.

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Reader Comments (2)

Matt · February 5, 2009 - 03:38 EST #1
For filling in PDFs (which aren't actually editable forms), I prefer PDFPen to the alternatives.
daiya · February 20, 2009 - 01:54 EST #2
Formulate is excellent for typing on PDFs, and you can even print to PDF to produce an electronic filled-out form.

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