Assessment 4 – 20th Century Type – Phototypesetting

For my “the development of typesetting or typographic technology from the period” portion of Assessment 4, I will be covering  phototypesetting.

Phototypesetting is a method of setting type, and it’s now obsolete thanks to the humble computer.

The way it works seems pretty complicated. A black disk is created and each character is cut out of it. This disk is placed into a phototypesetting machine. Light is projected onto the disk one character at a time, and the image is captured on photo-sensitive paper. A thousand captures or so later, and you have a page of type. The paper is developed and then can be used to create a mold that’s used for printing.

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This technology was created in the late 1940s, but in the 1960s it was digitised. Digital phototypesetting machines, like the Digitype machine created by Dr. Ing. Rudolf Hell, used cathode ray tubes instead of physical disks. This allowed the typesetter to check and edit their work before the final capture (yay for fixing typos), and also when floppy disks were invented later on, their work could be saved and stored for later.

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