IBM 1403 inspired typeface update (Vietnamese added)

I added a first pass at uppercase Vietnamese (tiếng Việt) to my IBM 1403 inspired monospace typeface. So, now, what started as a combination of the 52 characters represented by the A & H chains of the IBM 1403 printer has become over 1,500 glyphs supporting most languages that use the Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew alphabets, including the recent addition of Vietnamese glyphs.  It’s difficult to find example output, photographs, or actual print chains of the IBM 1403, especially beyond the initial English alphabet.

It looks like there was a Vietnamese print chain designed, as mentioned in Data Processing Goes to War with IBM’s Bachelor Computer Experts by Dan Feltham. I reached out to him, as I did with Jóhann Gunnarsson to see the Icelandic chains, to see if he has samples or can describe how it compared to other chains. There is some description of the process for integrating Vietnamese with the IBM 1401 and designing the 1403 print chain by Curt Maxwell and background information on the IBM customer USAID in Dan Feltham’s book When Big Blue Went to War: The History of the IBM Corporation’s Mission in Southeast Asia During the Vietnam War (1965-1975) (Amazon). Here’s Dan’s page about the book. Some additional research shows that the Vietnamese print chain may be based on the TN “text” chain (basically, Courier), but with new slugs design and code to allow overprinting for more rare diacritic marks. Dan will also be putting me in contact with some of the other SEs and CE involved in the project in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Thanks, Dan! And check out his book; it looks interesting!

Again, as mentioned in the previous Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew update, the translations have not yet been verified.  Here’s an updated sample of the soon-to-be-released 1403 Vintage Mono Pro all uppercase typeface.

1403 Vintage Mono Pro type sample with Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, and Vietnamese

The website/storefront design is in-progress. I’m also getting ready for my TypeCon (@typecon) presentation Resurrecting Type of the IBM 1403; it’ll be on Friday, 23 August 2013, at 3:25pm in Portland, Oregon, USA.

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.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the web specimen:

1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface specimen site

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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IBM 1403 inspired typeface update (Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew)

I’ve been busy. As a break, I added a first pass at uppercase Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew to the IBM 1403 inspired typeface. There are fun challenges in fitting these scripts into a fixed width (especially one set initially for the Latin letters). Cyrillic has wide letters; Hebrew has a few narrow letters. After the TYPOSF 2013 conference (my trip report), I incorporated some feedback from other type designers. (Thanks!) I still need to do a detailed review, along with a spacing check, since there’ve been many changes along the way. With that caveat, here’s a sample of the in-progress 1403 Vintage Mono all uppercase typeface. [N.B. The translations have not yet been verified, though the Russian is from a fun dance workshop I attended in Moscow.]

1403 Vintage Mono Type Sample with Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew

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.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the web specimen:

1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface specimen site

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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TYPOSF 2013 Conference Trip Report

On 10-11 April 2013, I attended the TYPOSF 2013 conference (@typosf) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (@ybca) in San Francisco, California. It was more of a design conference with a side of type design. Though I’m more interested in the typeface side of things, I still enjoyed the conference. Plus, it was great to reconnect with type designers I’d met at TypeCon 2012, starting with a nice lunch at Samovar Tea Lounge (@samovarlife), a favorite place, with fun type designers Laura Worthington (@L_Worthington), Delve Withrington (@delvew), Andrea Leksen (@leksendesign), and Steve Mahallo (@mehallo). Andrea and I are both on our way to our first typeface releases in 2013. Here are some random things I found interesting at this conference.

It was fun to see the various album cover designs in Nick Shinn‘s talk on The Look of Sound: Marketing, products and technology in the American record industry, 1888-1967 (conference blog post). I’m also a musician and used to photograph performing musicians in the mid-1990s; many of my photos were used to showcase bands through magazines, album artwork, and tour posters.

Marian Bantjes (@bantjes) showed the patterns in type during Type and Pattern Systems (conference blog post). An example in which all the Latin uppercase are represented. And a couple on steganography in design using one of her pattern systems (and the hidden lettering within).

Matthew Butterick (@mbutterick), author of the good book Typography for Lawyers (and useful for all, not just lawyers), talked about The Bomb in the Garden (transcript with slides) showing the poor design of many websites including those of organizations who’ve won awards for their print publications. He did mention an outlier example of good online book design, The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero. Read the talk’s transcript; you might come away with some ideas to think about. Here’s the Amazon page for Typography for Lawyers.

Peter Biľak (@PeterBilak) showed how having a wide array of interests can make your work better in Depth and Width (conference blog post). Inspiration and ideas can come from many places; unexpectedly, too. His video type specimens demonstrated how useful they can be in showcasing a typeface and how to use it, especially with regard to OpenType features. Here’s video of how they introduced Greta Sans. He also talked about his work with dancers. Fun to have that mix since I’m both a dancer and type designer. With his work on the new magazine Works That Work (@WorksThatWork), showcasing good design, “a kind of National Geographic [@natgeo] of design.” As part of work on the magazine, his team has been building a publishing system to publish all versions from single spot. Look forward to seeing that software released someday. Looks potentially interesting and useful. Peter also co-founded Indian Type Foundry (@itfoundry), creating quality fonts for the Indian market..

Christoph Niemann (@abstractsunday) ended the first day of TYPOSF with an engaging and funny presentation That’s Where I Draw the Line (conference blog post) on illustration, process, and finding ideas in the process. A funny lesson he learned “yoga will destroy your design career.” Yoga made him more relaxed so that he was okay with drawings that he thought sucked. You had to be there. He writes and illustrates the New York Times blog Abstract Sunday. He also showed off his cute Petting Zoo iOS app. The Abstract City book, an archive of the 2008–2011 blog is also available (and via Amazon). 

Ivo Gabrowitsch (@gabrowitsch), Marketing Director of FontFont (@FontFont) talked about the future challenges of the font business in Let There be Extra Light (conference blog post). A couple of the web tools he mentioned were to “try web FontFonts on any website” and FF to optimize/subset web FontFonts. OpenType feature preview is important. And the biggest piece, I think, is the idea of simplified licenses. Ivo mentioned briefly about their upcoming App+ simplified licensing model. Complexity of licensing often confuses customers. I look forward to seeing their results.

I think that Peter Biľak’s Typotheque (@typotheque) type foundry does a good job of explaining the variety of licensing scenarios, along with helping the customer understand the potential costs. Their EULA (End-User License Agreement) has a sidebar with a summary of the meaning of each section in clearer terms.

Travis Kochel (@traviskochel) talked about using Type as Interface (conference blog post). Using his FF Chartwell symbol typeface as a model, he showed how one could use the descender area as a preview. Like Peter Biľak, he also talked about using video to demonstrate OpenType features.

Stephen Coles (@typographica) enlightened us on how A Typeface is a Chair (conference blog post). Before type, Stephen was a birder as seen by his collection of bird books. Makes a lot of sense. Many similarities between the two. He also gave away two copies of his recommended book The Anatomy of Type (here’s the Amazon page) to folk who spotted the secret word. The chair illustrations were created by the talented Laura Serra (@laureola); unfortunately, she was unable to attend and missed a fun talk.

Meena Kadri (@meanestindian) talked about the talented hand-lettering, sign painting, and type in India, pervasive among the local landscape, in Indo-centric, Typo-centric: Hand-lettered Typography of the Streets of India. Here’s one image from the talk. She mentioned the HandPaintedType project (@HandPaintedType), dedicated to preserving the typographic practice of street painters in India by documenting and digitizing the typefaces found.

Erik Spiekermann (@espiekermann) closed the conference with Life is in Beta (includes video of the talk), about change and finding ways to keep enjoying your work (conference blog post). See how he accesses books from his two-story bookcase. I liked his list of rules on writing they follow at Edenspiekermann (@edenspiekermann), applied to marketing content on websites:

  1. no ornamental adjectives
  2. no self-praise
  3. hard facts as proof of concept
  4. no words where pictures suffice
  5. present tense, active language
  6. subheads as teasers
  7. 800-1200 characters (200 words)
  8. one editor writes final version
Of course, I didn’t follow them for this post since I’m just trying to quickly transcribe my notes for archival purposes.
Friday night, though tired, I joined folk at the after-party. Steve Ross (@steveross1956) suggested the Yucatan restaurant Poc-Chuc for dinner beforehand. A great choice; I had the yummy Cochinita Pibil, a typical Mayan dish. Though there was mostly club dancing at the very loud after-party, Andrea Leksen allowed me the honor of leading her through a mix of tango, blues, club two-step, and salsa.
It was great to see other type folk such as Christopher and Christy Slye (@ChristopherSlye & @ckslye), Tiffany Wardle (@typegirl), Miguel Sousa (@forcebold), Tânia Raposo (@ainat_), Jessica Hische (@jessicahische), Rob S., and others (some already mentioned elsewhere).
On Saturday, I joined a picnic with other type designers. I brought my mango chutney deviled eggs for the potluck and my in-progress 1403 monospaced uppercase typeface. It was nice to hear feedback from a variety of folk at the picnic and conference, including David Sudweeks (@nondescriptes), Stephen Coles (@stewf), Frank Grießhammer (@kioskfonts), Remy Chwae (@remychwae), Thomas Jockin (@ThomasJockin), Paul Hunt (@pauldhunt), and others. I’ve been enjoying the challenges of fitting designs into a fixed width, especially with my recent addition of uppercase Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew; it was interesting to hear about others working on monospaced typefaces, like Paul Hunt and Lila Symons (@daycalligraphy). I’m looking forward to seeing more of their work and hope to talk more about the designs. I liked seeing samples of the works of others. David Sudweeks’ new italic looks great, fitting quite well with the rest of his typeface.
Rod Cavazos (@rxc) brought his Bitblox Alphabet Blocks. Nice to see Lizy Gershenzon (@lizyjoy) & Travis Kochel (@traviskochel) of Scribble Tone (@scribbletone) in Portland, Oregon; Antonio Serrano of BAMF in Mexico. There were so many other type designers I’ve missed mentioning, but still enjoyed seeing, again.
The only really bad thing of attending: Found that some idiot kicked in the fender of my car. 😦 
Time for me to get back to typeface work and prepare for a performance of Victorian era choreographies with Danse Libre tonight in Palo Alto, California.
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IBM 1403 inspired typeface update

It’s been about a month since I started designing my IBM 1403 printer inspired typeface (initial post about it with an early sample image).  The typeface has grown from 52 glyphs covering the A and H print chains to over 730 glyphs, currently in two weights (regular and semibold).  I created a small caps variant to act as lowercase.  There is nearly full coverage of most languages that use the Latin alphabet, now, along with a number of symbols and OpenType features.  Though there’s a lot of testing to be done (and I don’t like to talk about release dates ahead of time), I do hope to release this typeface in the first half of 2013.

Jóhann Gunnarsson, who maintained the two 1401s in Iceland back in the 1960s, was kind enough to send me a couple printouts that included the modifications to the A and H chains to support parts of the Icelandic alphabet.  I’ve included a historical variant of the squished Ö they used, along with Æ, Ð, and Þ in the default set. [As a side note, check out the pipe organ that Jóhann is building.]

On 27 Feb 2013, Cade Metz (@cademetz) published the nice article The Strange Beauty of Historic Computers Brought Back From The Dead in Wired (@wired) about the IBM 1401 restoration at the Computer History Museum (@ComputerHistory). 

Someday it would be great to see the various language specific variants of the IBM 1403 printer chains.  I also hope to see an APL chain, sometime.  Let me know if you have sample output or photographs of these chains.

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.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the web specimen:

1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface specimen site

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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Nest thermostat almost paid for itself in less than a year

A number of friends have been involved in developing the Nest thermostat and service (@nest).  If I’d known that this is what a friend was coming out of retirement to work on when I departed Tellme in 2010, I might have tried to join them instead of venturing out on my own.  I finally convinced myself to get the second revision of the first generation Nest thermostat when it was available, again, in early 2012.  I figured that I was mostly supporting friends and purchasing an expensive remote temperature sensor.  Well, and a more accurate one. The ~40 year old thermostat (with an error bar of probably 5–10ºF) was being replaced:

Old (~40 years) next to new @nest thermostat.

A post shared by Jeff Kellem (@composerjk) on

Admittedly, the old thermostat may still work in another 40 years, whereas the Nest probably won’t.

Though I haven’t pulled in weather data to adjust for those differences nor changes in natural gas prices, I recently looked at billing numbers for May–December 2008–2011 to compare to 2012.  If Opower (@opower) and PG&E (@pge4me) allowed for arbitrary bill/cost comparisons beyond just the current bill, it’d be easier to show real differences since they adjust for weather and costs.  But, still the numbers are interesting.

The 2012 numbers were the smallest of the past 5 years.  Smallest savings difference was just over $100.  Largest was $270!   Averaging the costs from 2008–2011 showed a savings of $195 when compared to 2012.  So, in less than a year, the Nest thermostat almost paid for itself.  Admittedly, my scenario was the easiest to provide savings: I’d often just set the thermostat once and leave it, except when traveling. I have a simple heating system. For those that turn down the thermostat at night, regularly, it might take longer.  I was still surprised at how quickly it paid for itself.

I wish Nest had an API for in-depth data access and showed more details, immediately, too. I’ve noticed claims of auto-away savings for 1 hour when it should’ve said 6+ hours; would be easier to diagnose if data was available, immediately.

Now, I’m experimenting with turning it down at night and letting it learn more about that routine.  I’ll be curious to see how the numbers change next year.  You can purchase a Nest from Amazon or any of the stores listed at (Apple, BestBuy, Home Deport, Lowes, directly from Nest, etc.).

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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An IBM 1403 Printer Inspired Typeface (in progress)

1403 print samples


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.

Sample printout of IBM 1403 inspired typeface

The listing in the sample printout was copied from the 1403 printout photo by Marcin Wichary (@mwichary), found after the font was designed. Glyphs (@glyphsapp) was used for designing the typeface.

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.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the web specimen:

1403 print samples

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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Font Aid VI: Aster Affects — the asterisk glyph I submitted

The Society of Typographic Aficionados (@typesociety) is organizing Font Aid VI: Aster Affects.  They’re looking for submissions (deadline: Saturday, 17 November 2012) of a single asterisk glyph.  This project will produce a symbol typeface of asterisks, submitted by type designers from around the world.  Sales of the resultant typeface will help raise funds for Red Cross (@RedCross) relief efforts after the events of Hurricane Sandy.  As of the moment I write this post, over 100 designers from more than 20 countries have submitted designs, including myself!

Update: In early January 2013, @typesociety posted a preview of the asterisk symbol font, in progress.

Update 15 Apr 2013: The symbol font Aster Affects is now available on the SOTA Store!  Over 250 designers from 41 countries contributed glyphs to the project. Behind the scenes, volunteers Neil Summerour (@positype), Delve Withrington (@delvew), and Grant Hutchinson (@splorp) compiled, assembled, and tested what would become the final typeface. @johnlyttle posted an image on flickr of all the asterisks in the font.

Update December 2013: I also submitted a glyph for Font Aid VII to support relief efforts in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.

Here’s an image of what I submitted.  This design was based on the aesthetic of one of my typeface ideas, sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be worked on. Simple wavy curves and angles, started from unexpectedly drawing a nice V that I liked.  At small sizes, the curves disappear, of course; I think I like that.  With more time, I’d probably make subtle adjustments and actually review proofs. It’ll likely end up in that typeface, once it comes off the sidelines.

—Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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