Digital Beginnings – A Calendar for Scientific Atlanta

The Scientific Atlanta calendar created 20 years ago

A long time ago, that now seems to be only yesterday or maybe the day before, in the fall of 1993 there was this new trend in photography called digital.

Scientific Atlanta

Eddie Tapp and I along with graphic designer Linda Adams-Wellin were hard at work on a project for Scientific Atlanta. We received a commission in October 1993 to create a calendar that illustrated the services and products the company provided.

The calendar was conceived by Linda as a twenty-four by nine-and-a-half inch poster that employees would push pin to the side of their cubicles.

Scientific Atlanta, now part of Cisco Systems, made cable television set-top boxes, developed the infrastructure for what is now video-on-demand, and became the world’s number one supplier of “earth stations” that allowed HBO, The Movie Channel, and Showtime to flourish on cable systems.

Ted Turner

Scientific Atlanta made the big dishes that sent and received data from satellites.
Scientific Atlanta made dishes for satellite signals from space

Scientific Atlanta provided the earth satellite gear that Ted Turner used to turn an Atlanta local UHF-TV operation, Channel 17, into WTBS the world’s first “superstation.” Our mission was to represent as many of their products and services in a single cohesive photographic illustration.

Adobe Photoshop version 2

Eddie did most of the compositing of the background image in Photoshop version 2.0 on our Quadra 700 Macintosh computer sporting a whopping 72 megabytes of RAM and a 25 megahertz 68040 processor and two monitors. A twenty-one inch for Photoshop’s document view and a fifteen-inch screen for the palettes and tools. The machine was really fast for its time.

Scientific Atlanta manufactured set-top cable boxes
A Scientific Atlanta cable box on top of a television


This project was a huge technical challenge for the computers available in the early 1990s.

The computer’s hard drive was not quite half a gig coming in at 400Megabytes. The Photoshop document was so big we had to use a plug-in to edit the image in sections. Photoshop couldn’t open the whole thing at once.

Photoshop before layers

Moreover, Photoshop 2 didn’t have layers.

There was also only one level of “undo.” Each time a change was made we saved a copy of the montage. It didn’t take long to fill up the hard drive. We rented a one-gigabyte portable hard drive that cost $1,500.00 at the time.

Scientific Atlanta made the remote controls for the set-top boxes
Scientific Atlanta made the remote controls too.

Time slips away

This project used a completely new way of working. Problems happened. They were solved. Client changes caused delays. The huge amount of time it took to do anything in Photoshop was another.

By the time everything was worked out the project was well into January 1994.

12 months over two years

Scientific Atlanta still wanted a calendar that would span a full year. Linda’s solution was brilliant. We delivered the calendar to the printer twenty years ago this February. That’s why this Scientific Atlanta calendar covered March 1994 through February 1995.

Scientific Atlanta built credit card readers
A Scientific Atlanta credit card reader in action

The photographs in this post are all individual pieces of the calendar.


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