Industry hails impact of 'father of Israeli high-tech' Efi Arazi

Simon Nias
Friday, April 19, 2013

Tributes have been pouring in for print industry pioneer Efi Arazi, founder of Scitex Corporation and Electronics for Imaging (EFI).

Arazi, who passed away on 14 April, aged 76, left an indelible mark on both the print industry and his native Israel, where his first company, Scitex, blazed a trail for the many high-tech start-ups that followed.

"The key thing that came out of Scitex was that it in effect generated the whole Israeli graphic arts industry," said retired industry consultant Andy Tribute. "So all the things you see today coming out from HP Indigo, HP Scitex, Landa, XMPie - all of these happened because of Scitex and because of Efi Arazi."

In a moving eulogy titled 'My friend, Efi Arazi, who changed everything', Benny Landa, founder of both Indigo and Landa Corporation, said: "In today’s age of smart phones and iPads, it’s almost impossible to imagine our world of the 1960s, when everything was manual. The electric typewriter had just been invented and personal computing was still decades away. Yet, Efi Arazi had already envisaged a digital world.

"His first invention, a digitally controlled knitting machine, brought 'science to textiles' (hence Sci-Tex, later Scitex). But translating an artist’s pattern into the language of knitting machines would require his second development: the digital graphic scanner. It was then, in the late 1970’s, that Efi Arazi had an epiphany: if he could combine the digital scanner with the computer, the arduous manual task of preparing graphic information for printing could be automated. And thus, digital pre-press was born - and the printing industry was changed forever.

"Digital pre-press enabled graphic content to go direct-to-film, which led to direct-to-plate, which, in turn, was the prelude for direct-to-print, today’s digital printing. But Efi Arazi changed more than just technology. He changed society. As a pioneer in the application of science to low-tech industry, he was one of the forefathers of what today we call 'high-tech' industry, the engine of our economy.

"Indeed, Efi Arazi was a gifted visionary. But perhaps his greatest gift was his charisma, his ability to inspire young engineers – and then an entire industry - to follow his vision. Combined with his passion, his unique style, his inimitable humor, Efi Arazi was one of Israel’s – and the entire printing industry’s – legendary leaders, who will be remembered and missed by all who had the privilege of knowing this great man."

Tribute hailed Arazi as "one of three guys who changed the printing industry", with the other two being John Crosfield, who passed away last year, and Rudolf Hell, who died in 2002.

"John Crosfield and Rudolf Hell started it by bringing out colour scanners and building the whole colour scanner market, where you could actually take the images and create the negatives or positives from those, but that was the limit of where they went to at that stage," said Tribute.

"What Scitex did is went beyond that and took the data that had been created by the scanners and allowed you to edit it and work in real time to build pages up, to do retouching, all these sorts of things."

Recalling the first time he saw Efi Arazi demonstrate Scitex's Response system, at the GEC show in Milan in 1979, Tribute said: "It allowed you to do in real-time on a terminal the sort of things we do in Photoshop now. I saw probably the first ever demonstration of Scitex in public. I remember watching Efi do a demo where he had a picture of a person with a Rolex watch on and he changed the date in real time on the Rolex.

"Today that may seem nothing but back then it blew my mind. I’d previously worked for a company that won the award for the top printer in the UK for a report and accounts cover that had a picture of various world currency notes on the cover. We had to take the signature off the pound notes, which took 100 hours of retouching using etching and dot generation and everything else. Efi did essentially the same thing in one minute.

"That made me suddenly realise ‘this is going to change the world’ and it did. He allowed us to change and bring forward offset so colour printing became very easy to do."

Print consultant and journalist Simon Eccles described Arazi as "an enormously significant figure in the development of electronic colour pre-press [and] an articulate and charismatic promoter of high technology in print".

"The company he founded, Scitex, set the pattern for high-tech Israeli startups with their lateral-thinking innovation coupled with take-no-prisoners marketing strategies," he added. "Those that followed in the print and related sectors, such as Indigo, NUR, Leaf, Aprion, Objet, HumanEyes, Highcon and Landa, all had a few ex-Scitex people among their founders.

"Arazi went on to found EFI, originally a small operation developing colour management software and interface boards to allow external computers to drive Canon photocopiers as digital printers. Today EFI is a global giant in digital front ends and workflows, MIS and wide format print."

Guy Gecht, chief executive of EFI, said in a statement: "We are all deeply saddened by the passing of our founder and one of the most influential leaders in the history of our industry, and we send our sympathies and condolences to Efi’s family

"Though no longer with us, Efi’s spirit of entrepreneurship, brilliant creativity and love of innovation will always remain at EFI."


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