Font for DEC indicator panels

Toby Thain toby at
Tue Nov 13 10:51:20 CST 2018

On 2018-11-13 11:11 AM, Jon Elson via cctalk wrote:
> On 11/12/2018 08:51 PM, Fred Cisin via cctalk wrote:
>> 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?
> Well, how DID they make panels?  I'm guessing that in the beginning, it
> was all done manually with photo/optical technology, the same stuff they
> used to make boards.  Also, used to screen print part numbers on sheet
> metal, power supply parts, etc.  So, they may have gotten pre-made
> letters on some kind of carrier sheet, and transferred them to a mylar
> sheet, and then photographically reproduced that onto a master
> phototool, which was then used to make the silk screen.  This would be
> all standard technology to anybody making PC boards in the 1960's - 1970's.

Screenprinting. The production of the mask would have been done roughly
as I outlined: Camera ready ("mechanical") paste-up artwork, exposed via
process camera to a negative, and from then on the process is standard
contact exposures (vacuum frame, etching, etc).

> While DEC got big enough to do this all in house or have one of the
> providers in this area make it for them, they also might have just
> picked a font they liked from somebody's catalog.  A LOT of advertising
> signage and all sorts of graphics arts stuff was done by hand with
> photographic technology at that time.  Bishop Graphics comes to mind as

Yes, dry transfer is a possibility. But so is piecework phototypesetting.

> a provider of transferable lettering and of course, DIP component
> patterns and such.
> I suspect that they didn't get into any digital graphics technology
> until at least the later DEC-10 systems, so mid 1970's.


> Jon

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