PLEX86  x86- Virtual Machine (VM) Program
 Plex86  |  CVS  |  Mailing List  |  Download  |  Computer Folklore

Comic Sans was An alternative history... 4292

Comic Sans was An alternative history... 4297
Well all the world is NOT a Microsoft Windows box, or even a Mac. Nope. Wrong. Linux (for instance) does not have Ariel, since that's...
Comic Sans was An alternative history... 4293
Peter Flbutt No, hinting fixes an entirely different problem. An outline is a continuous function. That is, it is a smooth curve...

Peter Flbutt

Briefly (okay, not briefly), here's what they're discussing, and the point is a valid one.

outlines for some number of glyphs. If you want to set 1 pt type, you render the outlines at size 1. If you want to set 72 pt type, you scale up the same outlines to size 72. Ta da. You're done.

However, this really doesn't work, in terms of the way we perceive letter shapes.

If we go back in history to when artisans cut each punch by hand, we can see immediately that a character of, say, around 6 pt (this was before the invention of the point system) and a character cut by the same punchcutter of, say, around 36 pt are quite different. And the difference is not because of human error or imprecision in wielding the gravers and counterpunches. No, the difference is systematic across the font. The punchcutter's intimate knowledge of the way type impresses ink into the surface of paper taught him to make the counters proportionally larger in smaller sizes and to make stems proportionally thinner, etc. Visually, the range of sizes represented an integrated design, within the limits of human ability to cut consistently. However, optically magnifying the 6 pt type to the size of the 36 pt type would make them look like entirely different typefaces to the naive observer.

Jump ahead a bit. Now we have a point system, but we've graduated from hand cutting each punch to mechanical punchcutting, using a pantograph. The typeface designer works with pencil on paper at a large scale (varying by designer, but often 10 times the target size), then inks the drawings. A craftsman transfers the the pen sketch to a brbutt template, which is then screwed to a block. A pantograph traces the brbutt template and cuts a punch at the desired small size. Now this is an industrial process, with expensive labor and machinery. So the designer cheats the system a bit and draws perhaps three versions of the font, an A size, a B size, and a C size. The A templates are converted by the pantograph to punches in the 6 pt to 8 pt range. The B size template becomes the 9 to 12 pt punches. The C size is used for 14 to 24, perhaps. That sort of thing. The visual principle is the same as before, but there are fewer gradations. Still, if the mechanical craftspeople are particularly send and attuned to the problem, they can make vernier adjustments to the pantograph and other adjustments to the casting moulds so that there is a somewhat smoother gradation among sizes than you would at first suspect from having just three models.

Now we jump ahead to the mechanical typecasting machines. These have severe limitations in terms of permissible character widths. The spirit was willing in the matrix manufacturing companies, but the technology is weak. We enter a dark period in design when a very few excellent craftspeople push the limits of what the machines permit, but there's a lot of just awful type produced that mostly waters out the good stuff. However, even in this environment, the concept of A, B, and C master designs persists, as it does into the era of phototype masters (Linofilm, for example). Meanwhile, we've moved from metal pressing into the surface of paper to offset technology, where a clean shape is laid on top of the paper surface. This completely changes the relationship of glyph shape (as cut) with its visual rendition (as printed). The old type designs were cut slighter than the desired impression, to allow for the three-dimensional impression and the spread of ink under pressure. The same designs, used for offset, produce a wan, weak character on the paper.

One last jump. Digital type, as outlines (there were other technologies, but nowadays we deal with outlines). What has been lost?

That's what the thoughtful criticism of specific fonts and specific font companies is about; and, in particular, that's what the discussion of scaling is about.

privates Margulis

List | Previous | Next

Comic Sans was An alternative history... 4293

Alt Folklore Computers Newsgroups

Comic Sans was An alternative history