JPCL at 30: Evolution and Revolution


Anniversaries and birthdays are funny things, and can be seen in positive and negative lights: They speak to endurance, repetition, the inevitability of time passing, growth, and decline.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of JPCL: Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings—a milestone we’ll be celebrating this week at SSPC 2014 in Florida. So here are some musings about these years.

Keeping It Interesting

With JPCL’s 30th birthday (or anniversary), there has certainly been endurance—surviving the bottoms of business cycles, adapting to the decline in popularity of print magazines, adjusting to the loss of key staff, and other plagues.

And there has been repetition in the publishing of 360 issues over 30 years—in showing up and doing the daily work, in the monthly cycle of magazine issue development and production, and in annual plans (editorial, ad sales and business) and their execution.

As time inevitably passes, though, all this repetition has been leavened by change, so that what might seem a total bore after 30 years actually continues to be fresh and interesting.

What changed?

Typewriters and Pasteup

Technology, for one, including the technology of publishing.

As we were publishing the first issue of JPCL in June 1984, we had not yet acquired a desktop computer. Yes, we used typewriters, and our typewritten manuscripts went to a typesetting company that re-keyed our content to produce the positive print images that were pasted up on boards with visuals and sent off to the printer.

Talk about inefficiency! And rounds and rounds of proofreading.

But within a year, we got our first computers—and lo and behold, we became early (and bleeding) adopters of desktop publishing in 1988. Ask Karen Kapsanis about the pain.

The Net Cometh

Initially, using a special type of copy machine, we could output film negatives of the content we entered into the computer, and we sent these films off to the printer. But over the years, we got to the point where we sent digital files from our computers. It’s now all “virtual.”

HaroldHower KarenKapsanis AnitaSocci

JPCL has had just three editors-in-chief in its 30 years: (from left) founder Harold Hower, Karen Kapsanis and Anita Socci. Socci, the journal's longtime managing editor, became editor-in-chief on Jan. 1.

But as you know, that’s only the beginning of the story. Cue the Internet (said by some to be Al Gore’s invention).

We did get excited (even fevered) about the Internet, and we jumped headfirst into web publishing. Thus came PaintSquare in the year 2000.

Making It Happen

And now, after 14 years of pursuing a very crooked path in developing PaintSquare and related products, half of our business volume is derived from Internet publishing. William Blake said that the crooked path is the path of genius. Our geniuses are D’Juan Stevens and Andy Folmer.

But, as you well know, again, it didn’t stop with the Internet. We’re now coping with mobile technology, social media, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things. All of this impacts publishing and requires our attention.

Thank God for savvy staff members Pam Simmons, Mary Chollet, and Julie Birch, among a host of others on staff who are so responsive to change.

The Coatings Road

But this disruption in technology is only one side of the change equation. The other side is in our subject matter: coatings.

At first glance, you might say that coating materials have not changed as dramatically as publishing technology. And, certainly, the development of new coating materials seems to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

LeadPaint Metalized Dam Gates
Wikimedia Commons / Thester11 (left); USBR / Dave Johnson (right)

Coatings technology, training and certification, and other industry issues are continually evolving, giving the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings plenty to report and discuss over three decades.

But coatings are, no doubt, safer, more environmentally benign, and more durable than they were 30 years ago.

By a long shot.

Materials Magic

Today's coating types also provide far more functionality than simply durability and aesthetics. Think about the fire resistance provided by intumescents; consider recent product introductions with functions like self-cleaning, self-healing, insulating, IR-reflecting.

There appears to be a bright future for innovation in coating technology. Could the thin-film revolution in electronics be a model for a revolution in thin-film coatings? Paints?

Disruptive change has also come to the technology of good practice and quality control.

Who would have thought in 1984 that "lowly" painting contractors would someday require training and certification in order to have legitimacy and acquire work? But it’s now true in many situations—and becoming more true by the day, thanks to SSPC. 

Focus on Quality

Who would have thought that third-party inspection would be required routinely on complex industrial and public works painting projects? Once confined mainly to nuclear plant painting, third-party inspection is now ubiquitous.

BernieAppleman BillShoup

Dr. Bernie Appleman became executive director of SSPC in JPCL's first year and helped shepherd the local society onto the national stage. Bill Shoup has been Appleman's successor since 2000. For 30 years, JPCL has covered the work of SSPC as it brought quality, safety and standards to coatings work.

The expanding emphasis on quality in coating work is inherent in the dynamic outputs of technical societies, especially SSPC, which has developed comprehensive technical education, an ever-increasing set of standards on all aspects of coating work, and a variety of certification programs.

But Why Coatings?

All of this leads me to think about why JPCL was launched in 1984. At that time, I was SSPC’s Director of Communications, and I had recently edited new editions of the Painting Manuals, Volume 1 and 2.

We delayed sending these manuals off to the printer, knowing that paying the printing bill would be a problem. So I planned and executed a big direct-mail campaign that featured a pre-publication sale of the two-volume set. Over many months, we pre-sold 5,000 sets and got the money we needed to print them.

Printing was a bit delayed; customers were mad; but they got their books.

This successful sale showed me there was a market for information about protective coatings. And, having edited the Manuals, I saw there was a solid underpinning of technology and technologists (writers of Volume 1 chapters) that could support a magazine’s regular issuance. 

So, in a business sense, the market and the content justified the launch of JPCL.

Nixing the Naysayers

One industry insider told me that we would run out of information to write about after a few months. Nevertheless, we started a monthly magazine; and 360 months later, here we are.

On a personal note, my father was a small painting contractor in the small town of Titusville, PA. And I worked for him after school and in summers starting at age 12.

He helped me to understand the dignity of work. And this gave me further incentive to start JPCL with the idea that the Journal could help to elevate both the technology of protective coatings and the practitioners of the technology—applicators, contractors, facility owners, engineers, specifiers, consultants, and suppliers.

I think we’re being successful in this work.

About the Author: Author Harold Hower, PhD, founded JPCL in 1984. Today, he is Chairman of the Board and President of International Operations for Technology Publishing Co., which publishes JPCL,, PaintSquare News, Durability + Design Magazine,, D+D News, Paint BidTracker and JPCL Europe.

Join Technology Publishing Co. from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. Feb. 11 at Booth 423 at SSPC 2014 to celebrate JPCL's 30th birthday with refreshments and special events!


Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; Coating Materials; Coatings technology; Health and safety; JPCL; Marine Coatings; Protective Coatings; SSPC 2014; Technology Publishing Co.

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