Notes about ibm

April 4, 2017 permalink

Ibm Punched Card Typography

Norbert Landsteiner wrote up a post about something that’s retro-technology-typography-nerdy beyond even my usual limits and understanding: a thorough explication and an interactive demo of how the late-1940s IBM 026 key punch (the typewriter keyboard/workstation machine that operators would use to poke the holes in the computer program punchcards of that era) was able to also print tiny human-readable letters and words at the top of the cards for easy reference.

Basically IBM encoded the alphabet and other special characters onto a clever postage stamp-sized print head that would run along the top of the punchcard, with wires to each “dot” enabling the printing of each encoded character in turn, effectively an early dot-matrix printer. (it’s not easy to see, but if you squint at the image you’ll see that the red dots form the “A” character, upside-down — you’ll see it more easily if you play with the demo and choose other characters)

IBM Punched Card Typography.

July 30, 2011 permalink

Ibm Selectric Turns 50

It’s the 50th anniversary on Sunday of the IBM Selectric, the typewriter that revolutionized modern office equipment. Removing those antiquated mechanical keys attached to individual type bars, the Selectric introduced the crazy golf ball thing seen above, rapidly rotating the correct letter into place before striking the paper (unlike older typewriters, the paper stayed put and the ball + ink ribbon moved). Users could even swap out their golf ball for one of many with a different font set, a feature now taken for granted with our magical computers.

Retro-sexy enough to be featured in the 1960 world of Mad Men (the model they use is somewhat anachronistic), solid enough to be Hunter S. Thompson’s preferred machine (his was red), but with enough geek cred to be used as an electromechanical computer terminal interface (six-bit character encoding!).

My office’s supply room still stocks some of these balls, even though I can’t imagine there are many typewriters left. I’d better go stock up.

(Via El Reg)