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ktinkel
09-21-2005, 12:13 PM
Remember the Photo Typositor? Ever buy type from Photo-Lettering (at so much a word)? Ever try to set display type with the Variyper Headliner?

Happens that I have done all those things, though I had almost forgotten about most of them until I saw Frank Romano’s “Making headlines (http://ep.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=ARTCL&ARTICLE_ID=235540&VERSION_NUM=2&p=29)” column in the August 2005 Electronic Publishing magazine.

When I started out in the 1960s, we pasted up type that had been set in metal and proofed to galleys. Text type came from Linotype machines, and display type from a Ludlow. At that time there was no typographic-quality transfer or rubdown lettering.

Then along came Photo-Lettering, located about two blocks from my NYC office. The only problem was that my boss wouldn’t pay $5 (I think; maybe only $3) per word, so except for one experiment, my relationship with P-L consisted of mooning over specimen booklets and trying to finagle the boss into buying a few headlines. (You can still find their specimen books around — a friend picked up one for me last year from a tag sale for $2. Well worth more than that, lots of fun to look at and reminisce about type in the 1970s.)

The Rube Goldberg-esque Photo Typositor is nicely illustrated in Frank’s column. We kept ours in a closet. I would sort of edge in and sit, hands turning little wheels to position the film strip, fiddling with various controls to control size, distortion (though we didn’t do much of that), and so on. I loved that thing. Wonder if there are any left. It used strips of ordinary negative film so if you had a stat camera, as I did, you could make your own masters. I once made one of typographic ornaments from a Dover book.

I used the Varityper Headliner in another place. In my memory, it was a total, unrelieved dog. Ugly type too (knockoffs, maybe?). But in looking around to see if I could find a description or picture on the web, I find people raving about how wonderful it was, so I might be all wet. Anyway, Frank has something to say about that as well.

Nice read for us old fogies. And interesting as well for people who have never known any way to set type but on a computer screen with digital fonts!

djb
09-21-2005, 02:23 PM
Too bad... I won't read Romano any more and cancelled my EP subscription after I caught him in a blatant act of plagiarism and the publisher brushed it aside as an "inadvertent editing mistake". I've heard from some in the industry that the episode I caught (his entire column was directly lifted from an Edmonton comedy group "Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie) wasn't the first time, either.

donmcc
09-21-2005, 07:40 PM
I used a VT Headliner. State of the art in the early 70s. If you had used a typositor before that I can see why you would find it clunky. No kerning, one size per font wheel, and dial and press for each letter, space or other glyph.

I worked at places with typositor. Unfortunately, I was too junior to get to use it. My kerning and tracking sense was much less developed then.

As for the boss who would't pay $5 a word for a headline ... back then the guy was probably only paying the freelancer $50 or $100 for the article ... how could he justify spending that much for so few words.

Don McCahill

ElyseC
09-22-2005, 05:29 AM
I enjoyed reading the article. I quickly thumbed through the magazine when it arrived (instead of putting it in the stack of unread pubs, for once <g>) and spotted that one right away. Sat down and read it right there just for fun.

It reminded me that the last of my waxers went into the dumpster August 2004.

Stephen Owades
09-22-2005, 07:08 AM
I used to deal with a pioneering "do-it-yourself" typesetting firm that was located in my apartment/office building here in Cambridge. Paying by the hour and foot of repro paper, we could set type on an A/M CompSet phototypesetter; fancy headlines could be done on a PhotoTypositor. For several jobs, I purchased my own PhotoTypositor film strips from VGC (Visual Graphics Corporation, the maker of the machine), which I undoubtedly still have somewhere in my apartment.

Keeping a PhotoTypositor in a closet was a good idea, as was learning to work fairly quickly at it. The output was on rolls of black-and-white photographic paper, which sat in a bath of developer in the area where you flashed the characters. Each character would develop to black after flashing, allowing you to position subsequent characters optically. The window through which you viewed the imaging area was covered with a red filter, so the (orthochromatic) paper wouldn't fog under ambient light. But neither the filter nor the paper's sensitivity was perfect, so if the room was too bright or you took too long in exposing each letter, the background on the final strip would be grey instead of white. Working in a fairly dim space was good insurance, and allowed slower working speeds before fogging occurred.

ktinkel
09-22-2005, 08:54 AM
Keeping a PhotoTypositor in a closet was a good idea, as was learning to work fairly quickly at it. Those problems were the reason for the closet — and so was the photo chemistry, which is not the most pleasant stuff to smell (nor particularly good for you over time).

There was another common problem with Typositor output — voids caused by bubbles in the developer liquid. If they were in the middle of a black area, we just inked them in with opaquing fluid. But if they spanned the edge of a character, we often had to redo the character (or even the headline). I could never figure out how to prevent those — may have been caused by our technique or practices, or perhaps just the way the thing worked. The machine was primitive in some ways, for all its general appeal.

There were lots of third-party 2-inch film fonts (knockoffs or just faces not offered by VGC). I think we bought Michelangelo Titling from someone (maybe Castcraft in Illinois, which has since moved into digital fonts). We also bought rebuilt elements for the IBM Composer we used for setting type from some non-IBM source.

Howard White
09-23-2005, 05:53 AM
Ah, yes , Typo-Tech. I also used them a lot. Sam what's his name was the proprietor. As I recall, you paid by the footage of output paper.

HW

Stephen Owades
09-25-2005, 11:43 AM
Ah, yes , Typo-Tech. I also used them a lot. Sam what's his name was the proprietor. As I recall, you paid by the footage of output paper.

HW
Sam Fogler was the founder and proprietor of TypoTech, and he was a true "original." I always liked dealing with Sam, who was also a resident of my building. He had been a partner in a printing business in New York before he was drafted in World War II, and returned to find that his partner had cheated him out of his share of the firm. In the intervening years, he was a banker, rising to a high position at Harvard Trust before being squeezed out in the merger that formed BayBank. Rather than retiring to a life of leisure, he had the ingenious idea of setting up a "do-it-yourself" typesetting business centered around A/M CompSet equipment. He enjoyed the interaction with customers, and we enjoyed his company as well. Shortly after TypoTech moved the bulk of its business (everything except the big stat cameras) across the street, Sam died of a sudden heart attack while standing behind the front counter of the new location. TypoTech was eventually sold to a nearby printing company (Benjamin Franklin Smith), and the facility was recently closed altogether; the do-it-yourself typesetting aspect had ended years earlier.

Most people used TypoTech for CompSet output only, but they did have a couple of PhotoTypositors--mostly run by the staff. I was one of the rare fanatics who set his own fussy headlines on the Typositor.

Bruce C
11-06-2005, 11:27 AM
I actually still have a Varityper Headliner and a number of font wheels. It sits in my garage with thoughts of sending it to the Smithsonian as part of their technology exhibit. I have the instruction book and a metal cabinet used to store the fonts as well. It may not make it through the winter though... I need the space in the garage so it may end it's life in as landfill :>)

Bruce

ktinkel
11-06-2005, 11:37 AM
I actually still have a Varityper Headliner and a number of font wheels. It sits in my garage with thoughts of sending it to the Smithsonian as part of their technology exhibit. I have the instruction book and a metal cabinet used to store the fonts as well. It may not make it through the winter though... I need the space in the garage so it may end it's life in as landfill :>)Oh, no!

Maybe some more local institution will want it. There is a printing museum in Boston, for example. Or maybe someone in NYC. It would be a shame to dump it when you have manuals and cabinets and all.

swall
06-28-2006, 10:14 AM
I know the machine you are talking about as I have been around printing all my life. My father has been in printing for around 40 years now. I would very much like to see a picture of this machine and it's "Discs" as well.

Thank you,

Scott Wall

Bruce C
06-28-2006, 10:19 AM
I know the machine you are talking about as I have been around printing all my life. My father has been in printing for around 40 years now. I would very much like to see a picture of this machine and it's "Discs" as well.

Thank you,

Scott Wall
Yup... It's still around. As soon as I can see my way clear to get near it, I'll take a few shots and post them up.

B-

swall
06-28-2006, 10:40 AM
Thanks very much Bruce. I was just trying to explain this machine to some of my co-workers and they are having a tough time following me. Thanks very much for your time. My personal email is swall-at-xtn.net if you care to respond directly.

Scott Wall
(swall@xtn.net)

ktinkel
06-28-2006, 12:22 PM
. . . if you care to respond directly.Oh, I do hope he will respond publicly so the rest of us can see.

I used one of those machines myself; not sure if his is identical or similar, however, so pictures would be helpful.

(By the way, you should not post your e-mail address openly. It is unfortunate, but it makes it easy for spammers to harvest. Best to send it in a private message or by e-mail.)


::

DaveKasper
06-22-2010, 10:45 AM
I still use one here at Panther Printing. We have been in business a long time. Wouldnt mind a copy of the manual. Ours is misplaced. However, the waxer is still in use too. There just seems to be a way about ink on paper and the composition. My Ancestors started this businesss, and I just cant bring myself to use computers for everything.

ktinkel
06-22-2010, 12:04 PM
I still use one here at Panther Printing. We have been in business a long time. Wouldnt mind a copy of the manual. Ours is misplaced. However, the waxer is still in use too. There just seems to be a way about ink on paper and the composition. My Ancestors started this businesss, and I just cant bring myself to use computers for everything.Besides the pleasure of working with the old materials, sometimes layout work by hand is much easier than struggling with the computer. I still remember how incredibly counter-intuitive it was to lay out any sort of publication (brochure, magazine or book spread, etc.) in PageMaker compared with doing it first with a bit of scrap paper, then transferring my marks to the mechanical. Still find it a bit frustrating, but 24 years later, I can live with InDesign.

When it comes to making small edits to type, though, I will happily stick with the computer. Way back when, we sometimes were faced with reworking a column or more of justified text because someone’s name was misspelled and the typesetter was closed.

Welcome to the forum!

Steve Rindsberg
06-22-2010, 01:48 PM
>> When it comes to making small edits to type, though, I will happily stick with the computer. Way back when, we sometimes were faced with reworking a column or more of justified text because someone’s name was misspelled and the typesetter was closed.

Amen to that. It's amazing what a skilled person can do with an XActo knife. Once client I used to do slides for sent me these incredibly elaborate films that had had gels hand cut and applied to the back side to add color. Incredibly intricate work, way beyond anything I'd ever seen (or would have believed possible). When I picked my jaw back up and asked him about them, he told me his intern had done the work. Seems the guy was the descendant of a long line of Colombian forgers. This had been child's play for him.

ktinkel
06-22-2010, 05:48 PM
It's amazing what a skilled person can do with an XActo knife. Once client I used to do slides for sent me these incredibly elaborate films that had had gels hand cut and applied to the back side to add color. Incredibly intricate work, way beyond anything I'd ever seen (or would have believed possible). When I picked my jaw back up and asked him about them, he told me his intern had done the work. Seems the guy was the descendant of a long line of Colombian forgers. This had been child's play for him.I was never a forger (though a jeweler), but I never used XActos for that sort of thing — I prefered single-edge razor blades. I also used an engineer’s ruling pen [the kind you dip in India ink] rather than sets of sized fountain pens, even using a compass and ruling pen to draw circles — often to cut them in quarters to create round-cornered boxes, if you can remember when that was a bit of craft rather than a computer command.

Every so often I come across those fussy tools and marvel at my old skills. Do not have them now — am lucky not to cut off my finger cutting up a cantaloupe or an onion! Let us praise the computer for what it is good at.

Steve Rindsberg
06-23-2010, 05:05 AM
I've still got a box of single-edge razor blades. I think I bought them on the theory that the really SKILLFUL people used them so I should at least give it a try too. Bad theory. They did come in handy though. A friend of mine complained that he really wanted a wireless phone so I sent him an old rotary dial jobbie and one of the razors (marked "Wireless Conversion Kit").

I was pretty good at applying gels and doing touchup on 35mm kodaliths. The astigmatism made it an interesting challenge though; it was sometimes tough to figure out which of the several letters I saw was the real thing and which the astigmaghost.

ktinkel
06-23-2010, 08:58 AM
I've still got a box of single-edge razor blades.I recently used up the last of my old supply, and now have to go out and find another box — they are super useful around the house, we’ve found. Silly things — scraping goop off windows and mirrors, clipping articles or coupons from the newspaper, shaving price labels off dishes, opening tape from cartons without piercing the goods inside, and more.

I was pretty good at applying gels and doing touchup on 35mm kodaliths. The astigmatism made it an interesting challenge though; it was sometimes tough to figure out which of the several letters I saw was the real thing and which the astigmaghost.Don’t you wear glasses for that? I sure did/do.

Steve Rindsberg
06-23-2010, 10:27 AM
I use the single blade jobbies for that, or would if I remembered I have them when I need to use them. The side of an Xacto knife works pretty well for that too and I always remember where that is, so there ya go.

Wear glasses? Sure. Full time since I was 9. But they don't seem to be able to correct fully for weirdness like itty bitty teeny tiny text on a black b/g. But when you cover up the real one, the others disappear too. Magic. <g>