View Full Version : Interesting typesetting history

08-12-2005, 09:28 AM
Not sure exactly how I found this web site (fell down the rabbit hole, maybe), but I found a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Computing at Newcastle with several pages summarizing “The First Computer Typesetting Project (http://www.cs.ncl.ac.uk/events/anniversaries/40th/webbook/typesetting/index.html).” which was conducted in the 1960s.

The author begins by saying that “the British Government gave us some money to find out whether computers could be used for typesetting activities.” The approach taken is very engineering-like — they decided the objective was to avoid word breaks because they didn’t want to need a dictionary and algorithms (as we have seen) are not adequate. So they ran rough-shod (from a typographer’s point of view) over word (and even letter) spacing.

They used an IBM Executive typewriter to produce the type (it had, I think 5 or 7 units of width variability, much less than a Monotype setter of the period). And they used a Monotype keyboard unit to drive the typewriter.

There are tables comparing what they achieved and what some book publishers were doing at the time, which is interesting.

Anyway, a very interesting read. (But it is raw HTML, sprawling from sea to shining sea; print it out to read it, or apply your own style sheet so you can read it on the screen.)

The most interesting portion is probably the extract from one of the papers given at a 1965 conference: “Typesetting: The Rake’s Progress or Innocents Abroad (http://40%20Years%20of%20Computing%20at%20Newcastle)” — as it describes the process — but the keynote address (http://www.cs.ncl.ac.uk/events/anniversaries/40th/webbook/typesetting/duncan_keynote.html) also has some nuggets.