Typewriter typeface vs monospace typeface

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  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,169
    edited January 2016
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    María Ramos said:
    A new style, and new type conventions were created around the machine. I think those digital typefaces based on typewriter models have the right to be grouped by their origin.

    This applies to all new type technologies. Should we also term all grunge and deconstructed styles as “desktop” typefaces?

    It’s interesting just how many of the MOMA acquisitions address the capabilities of new or non-traditional type technology.

  • María Ramos
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    Personally, I wouldn't use typewriter as a category to define a style in a type classification. However, I defend that it can be used to describe a typeface if there is a link with the machine.
  • Mithil Mogare
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    Thank you everyone, I got really meticulous information about the topic.

    May I know how exactly we can differentiate in Typewriter typefaces vs Monospace Typefaces? I would love to see highlighted thin differentiator line in between.

    Also, Nicolien van der Keur said:
    Thank you Rob. The main research is done and I hope to be finished with the 'real' writing this year. My goal is to finish in 2017.
    I would love to get knowledge about typewriter and its typefaces, could you please provide the link of your resource?

    Thanks.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,060
    edited May 2023
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    May I know how exactly we can differentiate in Typewriter typefaces vs Monospace Typefaces?

    Monospace is easy, since it is a technical description of a typeface with a common advance width shared by all the glyphs. The term implies nothing about the design or style of the typeface.

    So I would say that a typewriter typeface is one that was developed specifically for a typewriter, one that is directly derived from the design of such a typeface, or—at least—one that stylistically references such a typeface. It may or may not be monospaced.

    Some mathematics uses a style of letter, for semantic purposes, that Unicode’s mathematical alphanumerics set classifies as ‘monospace’ (starting U+1D670), but it is obvious from the use of these letters that their monospaced attribute is not what it is important: they don’t need to have a common advanced width, they need to look like a certain class of typewriter letter. Being monospaced contributes to that look and feel, e.g. by obliging wide letters like M and W to look a bit pinched and narrow letters like i and l to have long bar serifs, but it is not a technical requirement.

    When I asked Paul Hanslow to design a fresh set of these letters for the updated STIX Two Math font, we decided to give the upper- and lowercase letters different advance widths, so that the former would have a bit more room to breathe.

  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,108
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    I don't particularly like American Typewriter, but the design is based on typewriter letterforms.

    I agree with that statement, and I also agree that American Typewriter can be called a "typewriter face" in the sense in which you advocate using the term.
    And I'm aware of the existence of a very few typefaces which are monospaced that are not at all intended to resemble any typewriter face that actually existed, or to suggest or evoke a typewriter in any way. For example, someone did a monospaced version of Times Roman; except for the NEC Spinwriter, which was a daisywheel printer (sort of, as its daisywheels weren't daisywheels, but thimbles), no monospaced printing device, and hence no typewriter, used such a face.
    None the less, I still take issue with your view, not by contesting the validity of any of your points, but for a different reason.
    The Selectric Composer, although based on a typewriter mechanism, is clearly a typesetting device, just like any phototypesetter - or, for that matter, the Vari-Typer, despite that one having spacing even cruder than that of an IBM Executive typewriter.
    But as far as nonspecialists are concerned, they will likely not even know that the IBM Executive typewriter, or other similar machines from other typewriter makers, ever existed, and they will not be familiar with the technical term "monospaced".
    Thus, even though using "typewriter font" as a synonym for monospaced font is indeed, as you note, inaccurate in a technical sense, in my opinion, this inaccuracy is unavoidable if the intention is to communicate in a simple and direct fashion with members of the general public, as opposed to typographic professionals.
    So I agree entirely with you that it's wrong, but I disagree that anything can be done about it or that it's appropriate to complain about it.
  • Ray Larabie
    Ray Larabie Posts: 1,402
    edited May 2023
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    I'd like to highlight an often overlooked distinction within the world of typewriters: the critical differences between monospaced metal fonts and typewriter fonts. Both types of fonts carry their own unique characteristics that not only set them apart but also present opportunities for design innovation.

    First, let's envision the classic mechanism of metal type. Each character is a separate metal piece, often with flat surfaces for strokes. You know how that works. Typewriters, on the other hand, employ a much more brutal process. Typebars, each carrying a character, are flung towards an inked ribbon with high velocity, striking it and imprinting the character onto the paper. The characteristics of these imprints are primarily influenced by the shape and complexity of the typebar's character.

    For instance, consider the humble period. On a typebar or golfball, this character is shaped like a cone. When the period's typebar strikes the inked ribbon, it pushes it into the paper, imprinting a dark, round dot. This process is akin to a high-speed ballet between typebar, ink, and paper, resulting in a distinctive aesthetic that is intrinsic to typewriter fonts. Thwack! Now let's compare this to more complex characters, like 'W'. The typebar for a 'W' has more points of contact with the ribbon, but because it covers a larger area, it doesn't imprint as deeply into the paper. The resulting character has a lower line contrast and appears differently compared to simpler characters.

    Classic typewriter fonts, such as those used in the iconic Underwood typewriters, exhibited this discrepancy quite visibly. There was seemingly no attempt to compensate for the uneven weighting of characters. However, the advent of electric typewriters in the 1960s, particularly the IBM Selectric series, brought forth innovations in typewriter font design. With predictable typebar or golfball impacts, designers could modify the fonts to balance these weighting discrepancies, thereby creating more evenly weighted text. You can witness this evolution by observing the simplification of certain characters, like the '@' symbol and 'W'. 

    When transitioning typewriter fonts into the digital realm, it's essential to account for these unique imprint characteristics. To replicate the 'smashing into ribbons' aspect faithfully in a digital font requires careful consideration. If you examine the typebars and golfballs and compare with the text it would produce, not only the catalog samples but actual pages, you can see the results for yourself.

    While monospaced metal fonts and typewriter fonts may seem similar, understanding their nuances can provide rich insights and inspire innovative approaches to monospaced font design. Metal type, phototype, and digital type have their own technical hurdles to deal with but, smacking typebars and golfballs into ribbons has it's own technical challenge. Also look into chainprinters becuase that's another fascinating technical hurdle for type, an unholy marriage of teletype machine and chainsaw.
  • Mithil Mogare
    Mithil Mogare Posts: 43
    edited May 2023
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    Thank you everyone for fruitful comments, I learnt a lot from this discussion. 

  • Russell McGorman
    Russell McGorman Posts: 261
    edited May 2023
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    When I see the words "Typewriter Font" The image conjured is almost always something like a beat reporter wearing a fedora that's seen better days, press pass tucked in the band, bashing out a story, Or the struggling author flipping the ribbon in the Underwood #10 for the third time... But, I recall that my mother's IBM Selectric came the a few "golf balls", including san serifs and an Italic. So, I looked up IBM Selectric fonts. There are actual Typewriter fonts that would not easily pass for digital typewriter  fonts.
    (But, of course, the Selectric could handle Proportional type, which tends to break the typewriter font mould a little.)
     
    (From Theodor Munk / The Typewriter Database , IBM Selectric Font Catalogue)
  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,108
    edited May 2023
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    There was seemingly no attempt to compensate for the uneven weighting of characters. However, the advent of electric typewriters in the 1960s, particularly the IBM Selectric series, brought forth innovations in typewriter font design. With predictable typebar or golfball impacts, designers could modify the fonts to balance these weighting discrepancies, thereby creating more evenly weighted text.

    On the manual typewriter (in the USA English arrangement) " was the shift of 2, _ was the shift of 6, and ' was the shift of 8. Also, * was the shift of -, which was still on the right of 0 (zero). To the right of the : and ; key was a key bearing both @ and ¢.
    On the electric typewriter, @ was placed over 2, ¢ was placed over 6, and * was placed over 8, so that " and ', as well as _ and -, could be placed on the same key. In this way, the electric typewriter could be designed to give a lighter impact for that key, without complicating the mechanism so as to change the impact based on whether or not the shift key was also pressed.
    With manual typewriters, it was expected the typist would press more lightly when typing a smaller character.
    Electric typewriters, of course, were in existence many years before the Selectric typewriter came out in 1961, and the keyboard change, which reflected the weighting of characters, also took place long before 1961.


  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,108
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    It took me some time to research this, but it turns out the modern "electric typewriter" keyboard arrangement was present on the 1925 Remington Electric, which was the first machine sold in the line of development of all the IBM electric typewriters and the Friden Flexowriter, and where the modern electric typewriter principle of transmitting power to the keys by a rotating roller originated.