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History of Fonts

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Have you ever wondered where all the type in the Font List comes from and where do they get some of these names like Verdana, Garamond, Baskerville, Goudy, Benguiat and so forth? Have you even given it a thought?

A Brief History of Type
Thirty thousand years ago, there were no computers and no dropdown lists containing thousands of fonts. If you wished to publish a document, you picked up a sharp stone, and by torchlight you carved your message on the side of your cave, as seen in this figure.

The image, believed to be the first printed menu, is fairly clear: Thor -The Norse god of thunder (shown on the left) has used a spear to compel the creature (on the right), presumably a member of the deer family, to join Thor and his extended family for dinner—in the capacity of guest of honor.

Early desktop publishing continued to limp along as such for another few tens of thousands of years until the supply of sharp stones and available wall space was becoming as limited as hen’s teeth. Then, while doing a layout in soft clay for an upcoming newsletter, Thorton the Persian, descendent of Thor of the cave, invented a kind of crude alphabet, which he called cuneiform (Being a character or characters formed by the arrangement of small wedge-shaped elements and used in ancient Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian writing.)

He tried to market his new invention to the Phoenicians and Egyptians, but they had already invented their own kinds of fonts called Sanskrit and hieroglyphics (a system of writing, in which pictorial symbols are used to represent meanings). The font list was filling up quickly and we weren’t even close to having a type book or computer in which to store them.

 In the lighter part of the dark ages, monks in monasteries began getting very fancy in their publishing efforts and developed dozens of really attractive fonts. The documents, which they illuminated so artistically, unfortunately took many years to produce, and often the monks would die without completing the manuscript. The monks soon got out of the publishing business, however, and took up other pursuits, such as making potent liqueurs which were infinitely more fun to test, and produced greater profits in a shorter period of time.

Development of typography into the 20th Century
In the mid-fifteenth century, Johannes Gutenberg introduced handset type, which remained the sole means of typesetting until the late
19th century. Individual letters were placed together to make words, sentences and paragraphs. When a page of type was set, it was locked into place, inked and printed. The beauty of this system was that the letters were reusable… recycling in the 15th century as it were. After the printing of one page was accomplished, the characters were unlocked and placed back in their respective sections in the type drawer, to be re-used to set the next page. The downside was that reprints were not at all cost-effective!

Justified text (aligned flush left and flush right) was accomplished by inserting spacers between the words until the line was the preferred width. Thin lead spacers were also inserted between the lines of type to create line spacing. This is the origin of the term “leading” (pronounced led-ding), a term used today to indicate the space between lines of text.

To say the process of setting type was labor intensive is an understatement. In the 1800s type was still set by hand, and although the process was somewhat more organized, it was still slow. The figure to the right shows a representation of a piece of metal type, usually cast lead and produced by a type foundry. The typographer held a composing stick in one hand and picked individual characters and spaces from a drawer that was divided into smaller sections to contain the individual groups of letters.

Moveable Type
The drawback to these early desktop publishing methods was that they were slow. By the time the document was published, what was being recounted was no longer newsworthy. Some faster method was necessary. Early in the
11th century the Chinese began to print using clay type. Clay, of course, had its drawbacks, but at least when the ink dried on the paper, the news was not ancient history. The Koreans moved the bar higher by casting letters in iron, and later in bronze. Progress was being made.

 Unfortunately, none of this did the Western publishing world much good because the Korean, Chinese and Japanese character fonts were for the most part unreadable to Europeans. In around 1400 AD, Johannes Gutenberg, while pressing grapes in a grape press, noticed that some of the residue from the grapes looked not unlike letterforms once transferred to blotting paper.

 Now whether the fermented grape juice inspired this vision or whether like the early monks, Johannes was just burned out on grape juice, the experience inspired Mr. G to produce a whole set of cast metal letters which he used to produce what is believed to be the first typeset wine list. And the converted winepress became Mr. Gutenberg’s first printing press.

 Beautiful though the first set of letters were, it took some getting used to as evidenced on the right. Reversing the type made the finished product readable. Soon enough, however, Mr. Gutenberg discovered that if he made the characters on his metal type mirror-reading, or reversed, then the printed document would be right-reading. This made churchgoers, using the revised Gutenberg Bible, forever after much indebted to Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press with moveable type.  Nothing much happened in the intervening centuries until the computer was invented and subsequently computer fonts appeared in dropdown font lists. And that pretty much brings us up to date.

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The first hard drive, made by IBM in 1956, was as big as two refrigerators and could store an impressive 5 MB of data.

IBM introduces its first Personal Computer, IBM 5250 on August 12, 1981.

Long before the iPhone, the IBM Simon was released in 1994. Known as the first smartphone, it was the first phone with PDA and telephone features in one device.

The first mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart in 1963. It was a wooden shell with two metal wheels.

Worldwide Web (WWW) was introduced by Tim Burner Lee on August 6, 1991

"Archie" was the first Search Engine created in 1989 by a computer science student; Alan Emtage. Google was launched to the world 8 years later in 1997.

In 1965, E.A Johonson developed the world's first touch screen. The technology was similar to today's smartphones, but could only read one touch at a time.

Tic Tac Toe (OXO, also known as "Noughts And Crosses") was the first graphical computer game. It was programmed by A.S. Douglas in 1952 during his Ph.D in Cambridge University.

Fact: 90% of world computers run Microsoft Windows as their operating system.

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An Intel PC has four protection modes: Abort, Retry, Fail and Reboot.

Old software engineers never die, they just logout.

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 No. of Alphabet Letters

Rotokos (Cambodia) - 74
Sindhi (Pakistan) - 52
Urdu (Pakistan) - 37
Persian (Iran) - 32
Greek (Greece) - 24
English (Global) - 26
Latin - 23

Gaelic (Irish) (Ireland) - 18

 Interesting Facts 

40% of school students are unable to read English

60% of college students are unable to understand English

70% of university students are unable to speak English

85% of working professionals are unable to give proper presentation

90% of applicants are unable to write CVs and give interview

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