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Old 07-07-2010, 08:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by John Spragens View Post
I didn't realize that photo-typesetting went back that far. When did it make it into, say, newspapers?
I don’t think photo-typesetting as a commercial proposition actually did go that far back, but there were discussions, patents, etc. in the period between the two world wars. According to Wallis’s Concise Chronology of Typesetting Developments 1886–1986, the use of “photocomposing” was seen in the Penrose Annual of 1926, for example.

There were problems with the early systems. The font was often on a rotating disk, the imaging was done by strobe light, and there were visual artefacts from all that movement.

Improvements to the Linotype and Monotype machines (and new fonts for them) continued into the 40s and 50s, even the 60s. Meanwhile there were lots of experiments with CRTs, photo by various techniques, and hybrid systems.

I think everything was basically waiting for computers to become capable enough. Besides, the typesetting industry was reluctant to change because of the font costs in a new format, in a period when the typesetter needed to build kerning sets for every new font (fonts didn’t normally come pre-kerned until digital times). A typesetter friend told me he invested 16 hours per font before it could be used on jobs.

Newspapers were also slow to change. For one thing, their big presses were designed to run with Linos, and changing one meant changing (or adapting) the other. I know production people from newspapers who were just getting into using (usually) QuarkXPress in the 1990s. Some early DTP Forum members were involved in converting newspaper production to desktop computers and digital fonts in our early days on CompuServe.

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