Notes about printing

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 8, 2010 permalink


From the New York Times obituary for Louis Moyroud, co-inventor of the phototypesetting Lumitype machine that revolutionized the newspaper industry in the 1950s:

Then, in the early 1940s, Mr. Moyroud and Mr. Higonnet — electronics engineers and colleagues at a subsidiary of ITT (formerly International Telephone & Telegraph) in Lyon, France — visited a nearby printing plant and witnessed the Linotype [the older Victorian-era printing process that was still in use] operation.

“My dad always said they thought it was insane,” Patrick Moyroud (pronounced MOY-rood) said. “They saw the possibility of making the process electronic, replacing the metal with photography. So they started cobbling together typewriters, electronic relays, a photographic disc.”

The result, called a photo-composing machine — and in later variations the Lumitype and the Photon — used a strobe light and a series of lenses to project characters from a spinning disc onto photographic paper, which was pasted onto pages, then photoengraved on plates for printing.

If you’ve ever seen the older lead-alloy-fueled “hot metal” Linotype process you’d agree: it was crazy.

(Photo of the Lumitype/Photon wheel by Flickr user Jeronzinho)