AM Varityper (phototypesetter)

Paul Koning paulkoning at
Fri Jul 31 08:55:07 CDT 2015

> On Jul 30, 2015, at 10:02 PM, Chuck Guzis <cclist at> wrote:
> I don't know how many of you were familiar with the Addressograph-Multigraph (AM) Varityper phototypesetting systems. Basically small computers with floppy drives and a (very nice) terminal--and a big box that held quite a number of photo "font" disks.  Basically worked by shining a light through a specific disk and character onto light-sensitive paper.   Produced gorgeous print ready copy.  Compugraphic and Mergenthaler had similar systems and I think there were also several other competitors as well.

My first job was software maintenance (on site) for DEC’s PDP11 typesetting software.  The sort of machine you described was the common low end typesetter for our customers.  High end came from companies like Autologic and, later, Mergenthaler-Linotype, using what amounted to an ultra-high resolution CRT on which the characters were drawn by an embedded computer.  I remember CG and Mergenthaler-Linotype for these disk machines, don’t think we ran into AM.

> At any rate, a pile of 8" HS floppies will be landing here in the near future.  Does anyone have any leads on Varityper service manuals or anything might help me with the task of figuring out what on the disks? (The disks themselves do not come from a country that uses the Latin alphabet).

I wonder about that.  It seems more likely the disks are in English, but use a non-standard character set.  Typesetting systems in that era tended to use 6-bit codes which were specific to that industry and came in variations depending on the specific market.  Those originated with punch tape driven “hot metal” typesetting machines, I think “Linotape” was a trade mark for those.


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