80s / 90s font production software and workflow?

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  • Noah Burney
    Noah Burney Posts: 26
    edited February 2023
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    Incidentally, at the Dutch Type Library we have two beige Mac G3 (‘Gossamer’) systems with Aristo A3 lens-cursor tablets that are still running. Additionally, we use some Wacom Intuos 2 tablets with lens cursors that work together with DTL IkarusMaster on different systems, sometimes under emulation, such as in the photo above.
    Very cool. I found an early 68k (pretty sure) demo version of Ikarus M online but it crashes on my iMac G3. Haven’t tried it on the SE/30 yet but I suspect it would work. Clearly the lens-cursor setup is what you need for any real/serious work, but could you conceivably use the standard Wacom pen as well? I do have an early one of those that should work on the iMac.

  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,672
    edited February 2023
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    @Paul van der Laan wrote:
    AFAIK Macromedia developed Freehand. And Macromedia bought Altsys before Fontographer 4 was released.

    Following the release of Fontographer, Altsys developed a program called Masterpiece, which was licensed by Aldus, renamed FreeHand, and released in 1988. Fontographer continued to be distributed by Altsys. Shortly after Aldus was acquired by Adobe in 1994, Altsys was acquired by Macromedia, which became the new home for both FreeHand and Fontographer.

    Fontographer 4.0 came out before the Macromedia deal (I've still got the disks and manuals). 4.1 was the first Macromedia release.

  • LeMo aka PatternMan aka Frank E Blokland
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    […] an early 68k (pretty sure) demo version of Ikarus M online but it crashes on my iMac G3.
    It cannot be completely ruled out that this is due to the fact that earlier versions of Ikarus M relied on the floating-point unit. If I remember correctly, version 3.01 was the first, last, and thus only version to run on a Motorola-based system with no FPU. We still have a few editions of Ikarus M in the studio; I will see if I recall correctly this weekend and get back to it.

    Ikarus M at DTL

    I am afraid that Wacom Intuos 2 tablets only work with DTL IkarusMaster (however, a customer managed to get an Intuos 3 lens-cursor tablet working). Ikarus M communicates with the Aristo tablets via the serial modem port.
  • Dave Crossland
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    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 wonder if Adobe can liberate it, if its value is long gone :)
    ATF Type Designer, typeface editor by ATF/Kingsley. The basic license didn't allow the user to sell fonts they produced commercially. I recall paying $50 for a demo license just to play with it but I don't know if the company lasted long enough to sell any retail licenses -- which would have cost over $50K+royalties on the fonts. After the bankruptcy the software was bought by Adobe, probably because they wanted the optical scaling algorithm for their own use.

    Oh! I never heard of this. I wonder if Adobe can liberate it too :)
    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.
    AFAIK Macromedia developed Freehand. And Macromedia bought Altsys before Fontographer 4 was released.


    No, Altsys initiated Freehand and that was the primary jewel for acquisition.

    This is well documented in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_FreeHand
  • Noah Burney
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    Super cool to see those sketches and disks @Stephen Coles. (And do I spy a small string of upside New Alphabet on two of those specimens sheets? Don't remember seeing that in the default Mac fonts…)

    > Also hats off to whoever added this animation to its “About” screen:

    That was @Erik van Blokand. If you need it as a gif…
    Ha, yes that tracks. Also I could've just looked at this page instead of making this thread…
  • Mark Simonson
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    I knew I'd seen that animation somewhere before.
  • Paul van der Laan
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    Somehow I forgot RoboFog, the customized version of Fontographer 3.5 that changed type design forever by integrating Python, later spawning RoboFab then RoboFont.
    Yes, RoboFog was the first font editor with Python scripting.
    Here's my copy of RoboFog from 1999 running on Mac OS 9.


  • Christopher Slye
    Christopher Slye Posts: 145
    edited February 2023
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    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.

    Carol Twombly was another dedicated FontStudio user. I think she was still using it when I got to Adobe in ’97, although I might be wrong about that. (Thomas might remember.)

    And then there were Adobe’s proprietary tools like FE (the “Adobe Font Editor”) which ran on a Sun workstation, and BuildFont.
  • Thomas Phinney
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    That certainly seems familiar, that Carol was still using FontStudio when we joined in ’97.
  • James Montalbano
    James Montalbano Posts: 89
    edited February 2023
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    I was a big fan of FontStudio. It had an early version of class kerning. Its "Kern as" command. Also its Metrics window was more flexible (multiple lines of type) than the one in Fontographer.
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    edited February 2023
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    FontStudio had a great interface in general. Ernie Brock and Larry Applegate were really good at user interface.

    Later, their internal-only Chameleon editor tool was also super easy to use and intuitive to anybody who had used any other font editor. I don’t remember thinking of it explicitly, but in retrospect I am sure that enhanced my enthusiasm for it, at the time.
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,672
    edited February 2023
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    It's too bad FontStudio was discontinued. When you consider that Fontographer never got updates after the 1995 Macromedia release (until FontLab bought the rights a decade later), if FontStudio had still been actively developed, things in the font editor space might be very different now. For one thing, I'm not sure FontLab would have caught on with Mac users.
  • John Butler
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    I second Dave’s suggestion that Adobe release the FontStudio code as open source, though I suspect that might require Adobe to first get the agreement of one or more tedious-to-track-down third parties. They probably can’t just say, “here you go! Have fun with it!”
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    edited March 2023
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    I believe that Adobe owns FontStudio completely. I may well be the only person to license it from Adobe; I got permission to use it to teach a class in the spring of 1997. There was some sort of signed agreement involved, IIRC.

    That said, due to the age and bugginess of the code, and the fact that it was almost certainly done in a less than current platform, I strongly suspect that releasing the code as open source 25+ years later would not actually be doing a huge favor to the world. A curiosity, but not a huge favor. We are talking excellence in interface, not algorithms.

    It happens that I was just chatting with Larry anyway, so I asked him what language FontStudio was written in. I am imagining C+, but that is just a guess.
  • Christopher Slye
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    Even without any third party encumbrances, I don’t think it’s ever an easy lift to just release software as open source. Lots of technical and legal vetting has to go into it.
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,672
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    I just remembered something peculiar about FontStudio. It had two separate versions, an FPU and a non-FPU version. I owned a PowerBook Duo at the time, which meant that I had to keep both versions installed. The Duo didn't have an FPU on the logic board, but the dock* did. If I tried to run the wrong version it would crash.

    (*the one into which you inserted the Duo like a videocassette) 
  • Christopher Slye
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    I still have a PowerBook Duo and dock!
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,672
    edited March 2023
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    Slightly jealous. :-) Mine is long gone.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    I started designing with FontStudio. As other said, it was just wonderful, and some features that it had, I still miss (especially the text-generating feature mentioned by James Montalbano).
    Actually Antonio Cavedoni wrote for me a quick Python script which in some ways imitated that feature, but unfortunately that ran just under FontLab 5.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    It's too bad FontStudio was discontinued. When you consider that Fontographer never got updates after the 1995 Macromedia release (until FontLab bought the rights a decade later), if FontStudio had still been actively developed, things in the font editor space might be very different now. For one thing, I'm not sure FontLab would have caught on with Mac users.
    Besides this, I know I am an "oddity" but I was never able to actually use Fontographer. Compared to FontStudio it seemed something archaic and cumbersome… :-)
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,672
    edited March 2023
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    One big limitation of FontStudio is that it was Mac-only and could only export Macintosh PS or TT fonts. Microsoft MS-DOS/Windows nor any other platform is mentioned in the manual. In fact, the current version of Fontographer at the time (3.0 in 1991) could only export Macintosh PostScript fonts, so FontStudio had a leg up at first. But in 1992, Fontographer 3.5 was released which could export both PostScript and TrueType fonts for Mac, PC, and Next (PS only). FontStudio was never updated to export fonts for other platforms, and that probably hampered its adoption by type designers.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    One big limitation of FontStudio is that it was Mac-only and could only export Macintosh PS or TT fonts. Microsoft MS-DOS/Windows nor any other platform is mentioned in the manual. In fact, the current version of Fontographer at the time (3.0 in 1991) could only export Macintosh PostScript fonts, so FontStudio had a leg up at first. But in 1992, Fontographer 3.5 was released which could export both PostScript and TrueType fonts for Mac, PC, and Next (PS only). FontStudio was never updated to export fonts for other platforms, and that probably hampered its adoption by type designers.
    At the time, Macs were still dominating the scene as far as graphic design went, but of course you’re right, I did not think of this.
    Ottomat was entirely designed in Fontstudio, importing scans of pencil sketches on the template layer. When Zuzana Licko picked it up, she masterfully flight checked it and she drew the bitmaps by hand (1995)! — And of course Emigre was using Fontographer so they could release all formats.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    BTW, I still have the FontStudio box, manuals et al., in perfect shape. I loved it so much that I never got rid of them! :-)
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,672
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    Me, too. :-)
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
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    Last fall I ran across the photocopied FontStudio manual that Adobe sent me to teach my class, and the letter they sent with it! I still have my FontLab 2.5 manual as well.

    Ah, 90s… you are a great source of nostalgia, but I don’t really miss slow computers with tiny low-res screens.
  • Noah Burney
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    Speaking of early 90s Emigre, @Claudio Piccinini or anyone happen to have copies of those old Emigre HyperCard stacks?
  • Stephen Coles
    Stephen Coles Posts: 1,000
    edited March 2023
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    Noah, these are preserved in the Emigre collection at Letterform Archive.