That was eight years ago and for those of us who were at McCormick Place on that fateful day, I’m sure you’ve noticed just how much things have changed. I was there then and I’m here now.

After walking around and talking to printing executives from various manufacturers, service suppliers, and associations, there are three things that really stand out. Perhaps you’ve noticed them as well.

Opening day at Print ’09 / McCormick Place / Chicago

Observation #1: The industry shrank. Fewer exhibitors, fewer attendees, smaller exhibits and fewer deals being done on the floor now account for today’s Print ’09.

Observation #2: Next comes technology. It’s become a much more sophisticated industry. Open group ware, work flow software, precision print press quality and high throughput all controlled by the pressman. In other words, lots of deepened technology under the fingertips of the printing crew — and all from a computer screen.

Observation #3: This one is not as obvious at first blush unless you’ve been studying the industry for the past 25 years or so. Automation has pretty much replaced craftsmenship. The “community” of printers that once shared their ideas and expertise with one another no longer need this sort of involvement to achieve the press results it needs. Rather, they draw upon the software and training expertise that relevant manufacturers and service companies provide over the phone, on the Internet, or in person.

If you read my blog you know I recommend a strong strategy for a global outreach. That said, one of the unfortunate bi-products of high-tech automation seems to be it all but eliminates the daily human interactions that used to be a part of the printing crew’s normal day. What I call the community.

Progress? You decide. I’m just glad to still be a part of one of the most unusually productive industries in the world.