Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Typography Day


This has been a day I've devoted to digital type. Through my teen years, several of my friends and neighbors were fixated on putting words into print. One of my best friends owned an 1890-vintage letterpress, though he used it mainly to print his woodcuts and linoleum cuts. (Eventually he switched to digital type and a different sort of art. At least his new "press" didn't weigh literally tons, as his old one had.) When I was growing up, a next-door neighbor was a Linotype operator. (He didn't think much of the new technology just coming into use in the mid-Sixties through early Seventies.) Years before that, Dad was a journalism major in college, and was the editor of his college newspaper. (I don't want to think about what working for Dad must have been like!) More recently, Stella, in her youth, was a reporter for a small-town newspaper in a town about, oh, a hundred miles from here. So I've been around people putting words to paper and articles to press (physical or virtual) almost all of my life.

Lately, forced by circumstance to switch to Linux in the short term, I've developed an interest of my own. Pursuing the dozens of optional typefaces shipped with Ubuntu Linux has led me to some digital foundries on the web that are doing astonishingly beautiful work, some of which they make available under a license that can reasonably be called open source, i.e., free as long as you credit the font designer and make sure any derivatives you make of their work do the same. I'm not going to be designing any fonts in the next week or two, but I am amazed what people apply their skills to... for glory, not for money. There are typefaces specifically designed to assist literacy education. There are independently crafted ftypefaces in web pagesonts designed to replace Monotype Corporation's Arial, Times New Roman and Courier New (all familiar to Windows users) not just in general appearance, but in the particulars of the dimensions, so that they can be used as drop-in replacements when you don't want to pay Microsoft for licenses you otherwise don't need. (Type people, just like programmers, seem to have a commitment to license agreements, probably for similar reasons.)

And don't even get me started on character sets and Unicode. The last decade has seen a sort of holy grail of not just alphabets but also their representations, worldwide, truly comprehensive... that's Unicode for you; think of it as the ASCII of your youth, writ large and internationalized. Too cool for, um, I mean, cool enough for words!

Damn you, Google, you broke the Blogger post editor again. This time, it loses paragraphs unless one explicitly inserts a P tag... BUT ONLY WHEN YOU EDIT THE POST, not when you initially put it up! It gets worse every day...

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