Besides type, one of my other hobbies is collecting and playing around with old computers. I mostly have 8-bit machines (Atari 800XL, Apple IIc, etc.). But, I also have a 1989 Mac SE/30 running Mac OS 7 and an iMac G3 running OS 9, and have been having fun messing around with the software that kicked off the desktop publishing revolution.
Nowadays we’re spoiled for choice with great font editors, but I'm curious if anyone is familiar with or has first-hand experience with font production tools from the late 80s and early/mid 90s?
I believe Fontographer was the first commercially available option for personal computers, and know that FontLab first came out mid-90s, but wondering about what other other tools were in wide use at the time.
FontLab wasn't available for the Mac until 2001. (PC-only before that.) Older versions (3.1, maybe 4.x) should work in OS 9.
There was also Fontastic, a bitmap font editor made by AltSys, the company that later developed Fontographer.
And @John Butler yes I’ve actually played around a bit with those Beagle Bros ones. Seems like there were a good number of them for the various 8-bit platforms. Guessing because for a lot of them it was a common hack to redefine fonts for bitmap graphics in games etc.
Had never heard of those Ares programs, but Font Chameleon in particular looks pretty cool. Will have to give those a try on my Win 98 PC.
It is somewhere in the range from highly misleading to simply false to say “They also made Font Chameleon, a sort of early MM implementation that Adobe bought to remove from the market.” Removing it from the market was not a motivation for the acquisition. The team that made fonts and would have cared one way or another had nothing to do with the acquisition! Adobe’s purchase of Ares was done to acquire Font Chameleon tech, and was entirely driven by the PostScript group at Adobe, to use its technology for font compression purposes in PostScript 3 printers.
I wrote such a long response to you that I turned it into a blog post. https://www.thomasphinney.com/2023/02/why-did-adobe-discontinue-font-chameleon-in-the-90s/
I really liked the overall design of Font Studio. It used the structure of the font files as a UI model, starting with a suitcase and a printer file view, and then you could drill down into each of those structures to build the font. I also liked that its pen tool was closer to the one in Illustrator than the one in Fontographer, which was like the one in Freehand, which AltSys also developed. I finished my first release with it (Felt Tip Roman) because it had the ability to automatically generate bitmaps, even though most of the work happened in Fontographer.
There were some dedicated Font Studio users. I think Luc(as) de Groot, who I heard was still using it in a Mac emulator on a PC the 2000s.
Fontographer had a built-in bitmap editor. You would specify the sizes you wanted to include and then hand-edit each glyph, with the outline in the background for guidance. It was quite time-consuming to do the larger bitmap sizes. Eventually, Fontographer got the ability to auto-generate bitmaps, and I routinely used that in the later stuff I built with it instead of hand-editing.
Fontographer wasn't able to generate Type 1 fonts until about 1991, when Adobe published its previously proprietary Type 1 format in response to the announcement of TrueType.
From this blog post: https://medium.com/@fpeulrich/a-brief-overview-of-developments-in-digital-type-design-561d9e63a122
I feel like my odds of finding one in working order is pretty low these days…
I was working as a graphic designer at the time, with font making an emerging side gig.
My software environment comprised Fontographer, for making fonts—and, for testing them, which was also part of my design process, Quark XPress (first choice for making and checking specimens in my studio, with a Laserwriter II NTX printout at a slightly heavy 300 dpi), Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. Corel Draw and Pagemaker were also quite popular, but in my neck of the woods (Toronto) the trio of Quark-Illustrator-Photoshop was the professional default/standard, on Apple computers.
At the time, before high-res computer screens and the WWW, you really did have to print out typography to inspect its subtleties, and because print was the predominant medium for type. I did also order the occasional high-res “stat” type specimen (on RC or resin-coated photo paper) from my service bureau—a bicycle courier would transport my floppy disc to the bureau and bring back the print.
I wrote such a long response to you that I turned it into a blog post.
The reason why manual (‘hand’) digitizing is still used at DTL was explained and discussed in an exchange on TypeDrawers in 2014. Time ﬂies…
I suppose "debate" is not quite accurate. The session was billed as a demonstration of the 2 softwares, but all David and Veronica did was chat while drinking martinis