Pre-computer Typography: Phototypesetting:
The invention of Photography influenced the visual arts considerably. Its invention brought about next stage in the technological development of text composition which was photo-typesetting. In Photo-composition or photo-typesetting, text was composed using photographic process on photosensitive paper. This method of typesetting was also referred to as ‘cold type’ technology as against the ‘hot-metal’ mechanical typesetting.
The process of photo-composition typically developed the matter to be printed (either as a negative or as a positive) by passing light through a lens and a transparent surface onto photosensitive material. The transparent surface was known as a font disc and was a film negative with the font characters. When a letter needed to be printed was selected, the font disc would rotate to the letter position on the font disc. Size of the letter was controlled by choosing an appropriate lens, which would reduce or enlarge the image received through the font disc. There were many methods by which size of the letters was controlled. In some machines lenses were used to enlarge or reduce size; in others the font disc itself had different masters for various sizes and the font disc itself was changed for changing sizes. At times multiple sizes were placed on a single master font disc.
The main advantage of photocomposition was that it provided greater economy and efficiency of space over hot metal. The output of photo composting machines was clearer and sharper than hot metal, and they required less maintenance. Furthermore it allowed greater flexibility in font size and forms for graphic designers. Over time they eventually became faster, cheaper and more efficient in terms space, money and time in comparison to the hot metal composition machines.
Due to its popularity the technology of photocomposition evolved rapidly, within this usually four generations of photo-typesetting technologies are recognized.
• Photo-Mechanical Machines (Photo-Imaging)
• Electro-Mechanical Machines (Photo-Optics)
• Cathode Ray Tube Machines (Photo Scan) and
• Laser Setters (Digital Scan)
Photo-Mechanical Machines (Photo-Imaging):
These were the first generation of machines that evolved from the earlier hot-metal composition machines. The metal matrices in the hot metal machines were replaced by glass matrices with the images of letters. The metal caster was replaced with a photographic system. The system was mechanical in nature and achieved a small but significant improvement in typesetting speed. Some of these machines - like the later hot metal composition machines - used to control text composition by means of a perforated tape. The text was at times composed (mechanically punched on a tape) on a separate machine and was then fed to the reproduction machine which would reproduce the letters according to the punched tape.
Electro-Mechanical Machines (Photo-Optics):
‘Electro-Mechanical Machines’ were the second generation of machines which reduced the number of mechanical (moving) parts of the machines and replaced them by electronic parts such as electromagnets. Instead of using perforated (punched) tape to control text composition, magnetic tape was used to enter and compose text.
Cathode Ray Tube Machines (Photo Scan) and Laser Setters (Digital Scan):
‘Cathode Ray Tube Machines’ and ‘Laser Setters’ were the third and fourth generation of machines which were almost completely electronic in their working and had very few mechanical parts in them. These arrived in the early 1960’s and used a cathode ray rube to read commands and imprint letters on to a photographic film. These machines, such as the Lintron 303 had dramatically increased the character input rate - on an average these machines could set anywhere between 200-400 lines per minute.
• In the given assignment, please try and answer the following questions.
• Use the available books in your library, online sources or talk to experienced graphic/ type designers.
• After noting down the answers, please discuss your answers with your colleagues and faculty members.
There is a possibility that you might not reach a single unambiguous answer. The goal of the assignment is to stimulate a discussion rather than to come up with a definite answer. Some of the questions are purposefully challenging, complex and ambiguous in nature; they are meant for the more experienced students and faculty, but undergraduates should nonetheless attempt to answer them.
Q7. Besiders a clearer, sharper and faster output, what other typographical features could be achieved by photo-typesetters which were not possible before on hot-metal machines?
Q8. Enumerate how the typography of the Indian scripts benefited by the development of phototypesetter. If possible, list down popular photo-typesetters used by Indian publishers and Newspapers.
Q9. Many type foundries designed typefaces for Indian scripts for use on photo-typesetters; list the most popular type foundries and their typefaces.
Digital Typography Downloads:
• Presentation - Slideshow - pdf