Font for DEC indicator panels

Guy Dunphy guykd at
Tue Nov 13 17:04:05 CST 2018

At 10:11 AM 13/11/2018 -0600, you 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.
>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 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 

My mother was a commercial artist in those days, doing advertising, brochures,
book layouts, illustrations, etc. And yes, you are right. For jobs with small
amounts of text with various fonts they did it by hand using stick-down letters
rub-transferred from sheets of letters. Then the offset printing sheets were
produced photographically from the artist's layouts. Which incidentally allowed
scaling, so the original stick-down fonts didn't have to be huge.
Also it allowed distortion in X or Y, so standard fonts could be squished or
Only they didn't use clear mylar film, just white card. Since unlike PCB production
there were not such tight dimensional constraints. Also costs needed to be low.

For instance that
is very close to Eurostile that has been vertically squashed, blurred slightly
to round line ends, and the slash inked by hand.
(photo fromm book 'Computer type, M. Rogondino, 1991, pg 142.)

You could mix hand-inked lettering with Letraset lettering since the photo-reproduction
was forgiving of slight blemishes on the white and black. They saturated out.

One company making the sheets of transfer lettering was Letraset. 
I recall using those films a few times in my teens (late 1960s) to put nice
lettering on the faces of moving coil meters.

I used Bishop tapes and pads for PCB layout a lot back then. They had some lettering
but I don't think variety of fonts was their thing. 

Letraset had large catalogs of the fonts they had available. I'll see if I
can find one of their catalogs at my mum's place. She still has all her art gear,
including boxes of those lettering sheets.

Btw, that post of mine never showed up. So some on the list saw it but it never reached me in Oz.
Presumably some net filter didn't like the included links (to font source sites.)
I've placed the text here:


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