An Idea that was Way Ahead of our Times!
With BJP leaders claiming that all scientific inventions, from plastic surgery to aeroplanes, were the result of innovations in ancient India, I thought I’d step in with my own pitch.
I am reproducing here the masthead of a registered monthly magazine that I launched with a few of my friends way back in 1981 when I was in the final year of my undergraduation at the Madras Christian College.
We had named it just “I”. Yes, just a single-letter name, “i”. It was unique by all means, something that resonated with the young.
Internet, iPhone: There was no Internet then! Even Apple’s iPhone, which is all the rage now spreading smart communications, only hit the scene decades later.
Once the Internet and the World Wide Web started making waves there was a profusion of company and domain names beginning with the letter “i”.
A Cisco Trademark: The iPhone nomenclature itself, incidentally, was a Cisco Systems creation (through its then subsidiary Linksys). Cisco owned the iPhone trademark and Apple cannot, therefore, claim originality with the name. Apple used the name without getting permission from Cisco when it launched the phone. Subsequently, though, it reached an out-of-court settlement with Cisco for continued use of the name.
A part of the phenomenal success of the smartphone will have to be attributed to the name as the letter “i” was having a sensational effect then on business ventures.
But Apple owned the software and the futuristic functionality that the phone carried, helping it become a fashion statement. It was the genius of founder Steve Jobs that helped Apple design technological artefacts that looked great.
Apple tagged the letter to its tablet, iPad, and earlier to its MP3 player iPOD as well.
Duly Registered: Our very own original “i” was a duly registered magazine (R-Dis-4565/81) – with the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI), a statutory body for the media. Its TN registration number was TN/MS (N)/365 which was done through the Metropolitan Court in Egmore.
The magazine was a serious publication aimed at the youth – sure, as with any generation, it was also a time when the young were interested in fun, fashion, music, sports and cinema.
But, unlike the current generation, they were also well-rounded with diverse interests and keen on serious pursuits – reading/books, art, politics and education.
Cover Design Creator: The cover design for “i” was created for us by Prof. Adrian Francis (who was my German lecturer at the MCC but later became a professional artist in Trivandrum).
The logo is to be read from the bottom to the top, representing the youth from whom radiates “i”s in all directions.
A Dynamite with Ever Prevalent Sparks: The “i”s were conceptualised to represent Ideas, Imagination, Innovation, Intelligence and Ink – a dynamite with ever prevalent sparks. The “i”s in a circle form the dot above the body designed as youth, thereby making it a small “i”. We chose the small letter because the magazine represented the youth ready to explode with ideas.
The magazine faded away after ten months but that by itself was a feat as the team was entirely made of students with little financial backing.
But it was an exciting time for all of us at “i” as our work covered every facet of journalism – writing, editing, proofreading, layout, distribution and collecting advertisements — and all while we were still studying!
If I may point out, this week a new Tamil film, “I”, from celebrated director Shankar is set to hit the screens. Our best wishes are with the film crew.
Posters on Trains: Our way of marketing the magazine was through posters on electric trains that we used to stick ourselves. We will board a train between Beach Station and Tambaram and go about sticking the posters in every compartment. We were once even hauled up by the Railways but got out of trouble with help from an uncle!
A time I will cherish though the quality of writing back then was amateurish!
Prior to the launch of the “I” magazine, we had published a campus magazine named Outburst for circulation within the MCC. The cover for that magazine was also designed by Prof Adrian Francis.
The issues we wrote about in both the magazines included rapes, corruption and political / administrative inefficiencies. We talked about them in 1980 and they are still firmly entrenched in the Indian system with no resolution in sight!
Having been an English literature student for five years (Graduation/Masters), I had assimilated the significance of word economy but I started practising it, with a war on words, only after undergoing journalistic training while I was with The Hindu. It was conducted by the Thomson Foundation, Cardiff.
The KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid!) approach came in later.
Our “i” venture is something I will remain proud of for it was a bold way for the team to demonstrate our originality through our unique ideas and innovative thinking even while we were in college.
G Joslin Vethakumar