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Technical Computer Details

Thursday February 26th, 2004, par Rich Hopkins


What has gone before is a very general discussion of the interface and its basic theory of operation. What follows are very technical discussions of how I have "crossed bridges" regarding using PCs and Macs, how fonts are "made," and similar nitty-gritty of MacMono operation.

There are limitations inherent with his software. One is that the justifying space must be in position O-2. I believe position A-1 is inaccessible, and there probably are other items of this nature which I have yet to discover. This being said, it is possible to create fonts and mat case layouts to utilize virtually all fonts and special arrangements Monotype ever devised for 15x15. You can’t get around the need for having the proper wedge. But MacMono does effectively eliminate the need for stopbars and keybars, two hardware components which often get separated from matrix cases by ignorant looters.

Computer Fonts vs. Monotype Fonts

Monroe was thrilled when he correlated the computer font with the Monotype matrix case arrangement. A modern-day computer font theoretically allows for 255 different characters; the standard 15x15 Monotype case accommodates 225 positions. Thus, it would be easy, in theory, to build a single computer font to mimic the Monotype layout. Here is where the WYSYWIG issue becomes difficult. In a traditional setup, the Monotype font includes roman, italic and small caps all in one matrix case. However, with the computer when one calls for roman, italic, and small caps, he accesses three different fonts. Every computer font of 255 ěpositionsî includes all sorts of things to make the fonts near universally applicable for languages utilizing the roman alphabet. Bounteous accented characters, different currency marks, special punctuation characters, and several "pi" characters fill up the 255 positions. To see how characters are positioned in a "normal" PC font, I have included a character exhibit called "Arial (Unmodified)". Look especially at character positions above 127. To get the basic roman, italic, and small cap alphabets into a single font, Monroe threw out the accented and other miscellaneous characters above 127, and in their places, inserted italic characters, small cap characters, ligatures, etc. But especially on the Macintosh keyboard, this invited unforeseen problems, because direct keyboard access to several of these characters s not easily accomplished. His original font layout was done for Caslon 337, and that character layout is exhibited as "Mac-Mono C-C Setup."

Cross-Platform Problems

Utilizing these "upper level" characters is tolerable on both the PC and (to a lesser extent) on the Mac. But once the work moves from the PC platform to a Mac platform, very strange things begin happening. The basic roman cap and lowercase alphabets (ASCII characters) are the same on both systems, but other character positions are altogether different. A big problem is that the Macintosh reserves several positions for "commands" or "codes" and these positions can’t be utilized for plain old letters. The same is true for the PC. Of course the "reserved" positions aren’t the same on the two systems. So, for example, Monroe had his italic ligature placed in font positions 16 through 20. All these positions on the PC are reserved for codes and thus, Monroe’s italic ligatures weren’t accessible via the PC. My goal was to develop a font layout that would work on both systems.

Commercial Software Needed

To make Monroe’s system operate, over and above his software you need (a) a Macintosh-based font-creating utility, and (b) a word processing program which has a “counting“capability. To work on the PC platform, you also need both a font-creating program and a counting word processing program. The sophistication which has come to be built into popular software programs such as WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, and Macromedia Fontographer, have done nothing but muddy the waters. before I seriously understood them, I though the goal of "cross-platform" was doomed.

Fontographer Problems

Fontographer, for example, will allow you to place characters anywhere you want in the 255 spaces available, but when you go to save the font to disk, it throws out the characters residing in positions it considers off-limits. Fontographer is such a "universal" program it makes one’s head swim. I have spent days trying to create and save fonts which would be useful to me; I have never succeeded.

Word Perfect Problems

Word Perfect has been my preferred word processing software since the early days of the DOS operating system. But that heritage of WordPerfect now is a major stumbling block. You see, WordPerfect was created back in a time when "curly quotes" EM dashes, and other typesetting niceties werenít available in early typewriter-like computer fonts. Thus, WordPerfect "on the fly" went to special auxiliary WordPerfect fonts to obtain these characters. This DOS-era necessity has never been abandoned and thus, even today when one calls for a true opening quote mark in WordPerfect, he’s unwittingly accessing a character from outside the font he’s otherwise utilizing. I have been unable to find a toggle which will disable this capability and thus, I was forced to look elsewhere for word processing. I found these "problems" were not built into Microsoft Word and therefore, I found I encountered far fewer problems by using Word from the outset abandoning my old friend WordPerfect out of necessity rather than desire.

MS Word Cross-Platform Substitutions

Cross-platform also raises its ugly head because, as already mentioned, several "pi" characters are located in different positions on the Mac and the PC. Microsoft Word understands this problems and automatically switches the characters throughout any PC text file when it’s opened in Microsoft Word on the Mac. Of course, that "un-does" everything accomplished at the PC with regard to special-position characters, and therefore, with the implementation I have developed, it is not possible to use Microsoft Word on the Mac after files have been created on the PC in Word. Merely opening the PC file on the Mac causes automatic character substitutions which absolutely are unwanted. Fortunately, Apple includes a nifty little text editor called "Simple Text" and using this software allows me to open and manipulate PC-based files with no fear of "automatic" character substitutions. The version I am using does not have search-and-replace or counting capabilities and that’s unfortunate. But at least it is a Mac program which allows straightforward reading of PC files.

Problems with Building Fonts Though I have Fontographer both for the PC and the Mac, I finally abandoned trying to use these programs. I went back to an ancient program (the buzz-word to- day is "legacy program") I bought years ago called Fontmonger 1.0.7 by Ares Software (no longer in business; the company was bought and trashed by Fontographer years ago). Fontmonger is so stupid it does what I ask it to do without any "automatic substitutions" or other complications. Though it will save fonts in a variety of formats, I have opted to use the TrueType format, for it is the most straightforward and utilizes only one file (where Postscript fonts can include as many as four different files for a single font). The same is true on the Mac platform. Monroe found a piece of legacy software called Fontastic Plus version 2.0.2, August, 1988, by Altsys Corp., and it also is stupid enough to allow us to do exactly what we want to do, rather than making all sorts of irreversible "automatic" substitutions. Another advantage to this software is that it creates bitmap fonts and utilizes an 18-unit em. It’s extremely easy to establish the Monotype set-width equivalents in the font, and then play with the bitmap in an effort to get something which resembles the desired character on your screen. But most importantly, it allows one to position characters in the 255 positions wherever he wants, and it will not automatically prevent any placement or cancel one out.

The Master Mac and PC Fonts

After getting to understand the font-creating programs, I was able to configure a Mac-Mono font layout which works both on the PC and on the Mac with no changes necessary when one goes from the PC to the Mac platform. That exhibit is called MacMono-CC (final). Most of the "blank" positions in this setup are inaccessible on one system or the other. That is one reason I have avoided placing diphthongs, for they rarely are used today, and would demand four precious positions in the font. My font was developed on the PC and then the precise same arrangement was built on the Mac. This is double work, but I have found no way to transport such special files from the PC to the Mac. Two known problems are (a) system formats & font structures are different on the two platforms, and (b) on the Mac I am utilizing bitmap fonts, where on the PC my fonts are vectored fonts.


Postcriptum


Notes


Dans la même rubrique :
How MacMono Works
Getting A Bit More Technical
Overview of How Files Are Prepared
Text Formatting Macros
The MacMono Interface
Overview of the Composition Caster
Macro Substitutions
Physical Changes to the Caster



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