Multilanguage Electronic Phototypesetting System
Multilanguage Electronic Phototypesetting System (MEPS, also called Multilanguage Electronic Publishing System) is a system for offset printing in a variety of languages and character sets. The system, completed in 1986, was designed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has printed Bible literature in various languages. Before MEPS there was no system available for printing in all languages, due largely to the economies of many countries where production of literature in their languages was not financially viable. The MEPS program, which is capable of correctly laying out different languages with different character sets, was created with this problem in mind. The program was designed based on responses from the organization's own translators about each language.
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In January 1978, printing operations at the Watch Tower Society's headquarters in Brooklyn, New York were upgraded from letterpress printing to lithographic offset presses (later replaced by the faster photolithographic process). A decision was made in 1979 for the Society to create its own phototypesetting system rather than relying on commercial equipment. In the same year, Witnesses at Watchtower Farms, Wallkill, New York, began designing and constructing the necessary phototypesetters, computers and terminals, in addition to the MEPS software. The system was completed by May 1986, allowing more efficient publication of their literature in dozens of languages, with a small selection available in over 600 languages. As of January 2013, MEPS is used to publish monthly articles of The Watchtower for congregational study simultaneously in 204 languages.
An earlier solution to the problem of requiring multilanguage printing was the IPS project; IPS and MEPS were developed at the same time, MEPS being intended as a longer-term project to supersede IPS once it had been completed and fully developed.
The core of the system is the MEPS computer, housed within a compact frame approximately 1,016 millimetres (40.0 in) high, 914 millimetres (36.0 in) wide and 864 millimetres (34.0 in) deep. Most of the principal equipment, including circuitry, was built by Jehovah's Witnesses.
Article text is entered on MEPS workstations, composed of a familiar but enlarged typewriter keyboard and a monitor approximately the size of a page from The Watchtower. The keyboard contains a 16-bit microcomputer to control the 182 keys. Draft printing can be sent from the workstation directly to a lineprinter for editorial review or proofreading.
Each key has five shift levels that provide the equivalent of 910 keys to represent commands, characters or combination commands. For complex character sets, MEPS automatically determines, by the position of each character's position in a word or sentence, the correct way to write it, simplifying text entry. For example, a standard Arabic Linotype must have different keys for all variations of the 22 Arabic letters in four different forms. By comparison, MEPS requires only one keystroke for each Arabic letter. The equipment's simplicity of design enables people familiar with typing and composition procedures only about two weeks to become proficient both at text entry and page composition.
After a publication has been composed on the display terminal, it is transferred to the MEPS phototypesetter. The phototypesetter produces an image on photographic paper, using a narrow beam of light, in a manner similar to the operation of a cathode ray tube in a television set. After the photographic paper is processed, it is photographed to produce film that, in turn, is used to make offset printing plates.
- "MEPS—An Exciting Leap Forward in Publishing", Awake!, April 22, 1984, pages 22-27
- "Producing Bible Literature for Use in the Ministry", Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, ©1993 Watch Tower, page 596
- The Watchtower, December 15, 2012, page 26.
- The Watchtower, January 1, 2013, page 2.