The other day, 18 January 2013, Mark VandeWettering (@brainwagon) wondered aloud on twitter about the existence of a typeface reminiscent of the IBM 1403 line printer. Mark wrote about his path to this query. Stan Paddock (his 1401 blog) had created a scanned font (artifacts and all) from a 1403 test printout during an IBM 1401 restoration at the Computer History Museum (@ComputerHistory). I decided I could probably throw something together that Mark might be able to use. Plus, I’d be combining two long-time interests: my love of history with typeface design. I knew that Mark was playing with simh on a Raspberry Pi (@Raspberry_Pi), simulating a DEC PDP-10 and the IBM 1401 (@IBM) and probably wanted to see the typeface while working with the 1401 simulator. So, that was the start of researching aspects of this printer and the various type chains produced for it. I also happened to have worked for both DEC and IBM, a while back.
Beginning of the IBM 1403 Printer Inspired Typeface
Here’s an in-progress sample of one of the typeface projects I’m working on, inspired by the IBM 1403 printer. Work on this monospaced typeface has only just begun. I started on the heavier side, perhaps slightly wider, and definitely tighter spacing. Samples were minimal, so I was taking a guess at the shapes. It’d be great to take a look at the various typeface printer chains (and subsequent printouts) produced for the 1403, especially the TN “Text” chain, used for producing books and such. I started with the basic 48 glyphs (26 letters, 10 digits, and 12 symbols) used on the early 1403 A chain. I started mixing between a couple of the chains (A and H) to add some additional characters. The squareLozenge ⌑ is included, of course. There was some great technology in the 1403; it was a workhorse, one of the early high speed printers. Perhaps I’ll write more about that when this typeface is released. In the meanwhile, here’s the IBM 1401 System 50th Anniversary panel (video: 2 hours) held at the Computer History Museum (@ComputerHistory), 10 November 2009.
Update: The typeface has been expanded to 730+ glyphs over two weights with an hopeful release in the first half of 2013.
Update: 24 April 2013: Initial support for Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew has been added. Here’s an early preview.
Update: 7 August 2013: Initial support for Vietnamese has been added.
Update: 21 November 2013: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been released and is now available for licensing, going from 52 glyphs to over 1,500, supporting 140+ languages across Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew scripts.