Font for DEC indicator panels

Fred Cisin cisin at
Mon Nov 12 20:51:43 CST 2018

[Top posted to avoid trimming information that might be useful to many]

IFF DEC used a commercial font, then it should be possible to find it.

But, it is extremely likely that they did NOT use a commercial font, and 
either had their graphics art people draw the characters as needed, or 
used reference patterns of their own that are NOT incorporated into a 
computer font.
Were these DEC "fonts" fully formed, or a very fine bit pattern?

Those sites should be excellent for finding something CLOSE. Maybe "close 
enough".  Or close enough to use as a starting point for creating a new 
computer font based on the examples that are extant.

Back in the day, before all of the look and smell IP law, font bit 
patterns were often considered to NOT be copyrightable.  But the NAMES 
were trademarkable.
Thus, MANY created fonts LIKE Helvetica and Times Roman, but could not 
CALL THEM THAT, because Merganthaler? owned that name.
If creating a font, even one intended to resemble an existing one, the 
artistic temperament would usually make a few things different, to be 
"better", or just a personal touch.

For simple stuff, such as this, which isn't even an entire character 
set, there were quite a few relatively easy to use font editors.  For 
example, I used the POEMS font editor to create a few fonts for Cordata 
(Corona Data Systems) printers and HP LaserJet.
I had a relatively trivial project, and the part that got finished 
included screen fonts (including reverse video, which HP told me would be 
"impossible"), and keycap fonts, for documentation.  Using my screen 
capture program(s) Sybex used them heavily for books for DOS programs.
I used a Cordata printer for my software, but used POEMS to make HPLJ 
versions of my fonts.
I also created some 5x7, 7x9, 9x12 HPLJ fonts, that I jokingly called 
"FICHE fonts", that permitted me to print dozens of pages onto each 
sheet of paper.  In those days, I could easily READ those on a table while 
standing and lecturing to classes!  Now, I need +2.5 diopters to read 
and text at all :-(

FONTOGRAPHER was generally considered better, and had capability of both 
HP LaserJet and Postscript, but, as you said, there was a learning curve.

There were many others.

Grumpy Ol' Fred     		cisin at

On Tue, 13 Nov 2018, Guy Dunphy via cctalk wrote:
> As for the fonts, do you know about 'font identifier' sites online?
> For eg:
> Seen a font in use and want to know what it is?
> Submit an image to WhatTheFont to find the closest matches in our database. Or, let cloak-draped font enthusiasts lend a hand in the WhatTheFont Forum
>  (req creative cloud subscription)
>   see
> On my scan of the PDP-8/S panel, I see at least 3, probably 4 different fonts.
> The registers text looks a bit like Futura, but isn't quite.
> Using these B&W samples:
> looking them up on  I get
> font_1  "ACCUMULATOR"
> font_2  "CORPORATION"  lots of close ones, maybe
> font_3  "digital"      urrgh, fails. I need to clean up the image more.
> font_4  "PDP-8/S"      maybe
> I suppose the people from DEC's art department are passed away by now, and all the records are gone?
> If you want to be precise, the best way to do it is to learn to use a font design utility, scan the panels,
> and construct a new font exactly matching the character outlines. But this is a somewhat steep learning curve.
> By the way, I'm looking for the full schematics sheets for the PDP-8/S (serial #700, backplane "LOGIC 770-P")
> with the circuit of the front panel lights board. Also photos of the front and back of the lights PCB, since I
> have to make a new one. (But with LEDs.)
> Guy
> At 03:04 PM 12/11/2018 -0500, you wrote:
>> So, anyone happen to know the font used in DEC's indicator panels:
>> or, at least, a very close match?
>> For mockups we're doing, Dave B is using 'DejaVu Sans', but that's not a
>> really close match: the vertical bars are wider than in the DEC font, where
>> the verticals and horizontals are the same width.
>> It would be nice to have a closer match when we go to turn out replicas.
>> (We're just about settled on the format for the QSIC RKV11-F/RPV11-D panels.)

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