Mergenthaler Linofilm

Gallery of Images

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1. Linofilm Keyboards

Note: The Linofilm keyboard simply produced a 15-level paper tape to control the phototypesetting process. The actual typesetting and plate exposure occurred in a separate unit (not yet shown here).

Here are two photographs of the phototypesetting operations of a newspaper in Parkersburg, WV. The ebay seller of the photographs, from whom I purchased them, dated them to the early 1970s.

The first shows the keyboard of the Mergenthaler Linofilm phototypesetter. The box on top of each, with triangles of controls on them, is a Linomix unit. This unit allowed an additional two fonts to be justified at the same time (for a total of three). I'm pretty sure that the machine in the far back corner is also a Linofilm keyboard, turned around and out of commission. The teletype Model 33 in this picure is not a part of the Linofilm system. The scraps of wide paper tape on the flor (and the tape in the spools on the second keyboard) is 15-level tape.

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The image above links to a 2048 pixel wide reduction of this photograph, which should be sufficient for most viewing. Here is the original 1200dpi scan (144 Megabytes): mergenthaler-linofilm-consoles-parkersburg-wv-1200rgb.png

Here's another partial view of the back of the Linofilm keyboard in the corner, cropped from a different photograph. Again, the TTY 33 in this view is not a part of the Linofilm system.

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Here is a full-resolution version of the image above: pdp-8-computer-used-in-APS-phototypesetter-parkersburg-wv-1200rgb-crop-linofilm-back-2672x4896.png. For the complete photograph, see the Notebook on the APS-2 Filmsetter.

Note: These photographs are from a set of four that I acquired showing 1970s era operation at this newspaper. For the others, see:

2. Linofilm Font

The term "font" is used too loosely today, as if it meant "typeface" generally. To a typefounder, a "font" is a purchasable unit of type. When you buy a font of type from a typefounder, you get a certain number of pieces of metal type, no more, no less.

The term "font" is capable of extension to other type technologies. In the case of phototypesetting, a "font" was a purchasable unit of photographic film. If you purchased Mergenthaler Linofilm system font of Garamond No. 3 Roman (which is the example here), that's what you got, no more, no less. Unlike metal type, you could have as many of each letter (sort) as you wished to expose on film (and depending on the optics of the system you could scale or do other transformations). But if you wanted Garamond No. 3 Italic (a different font), you had to buy it separately.

Here, then, is a font of type (Garamond No. 3 Roman) for the Mergenthaler Linofilm system. The overall external width of this cartridge is 4 9/16 inches. It's a glass plate set in a protective metal shell, with a screen with a grid of round holes over it.

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The images above link to 2048 pixel JPEG reductions. Here are the original photos:

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Presentation note: The scans above were done to show the transparent nature of the letterforms through the crude expedient of scanning with the cover of the scanner open. This worked, but it led to color artifacts in the original RGB scan. I've converted it here to grayscale to avoid these. Given the colors of the original (dull silver, black, transparent) this actually represents the appearance of the physical object quite well. As before, the image above links to a 2048x pixel JPEG conversion. Here is the full-resolution version (scanned at 1200dpi, so it is 23 Megabytes): mergenthaler-linofilm-font-garamond-no-3-roman-1200rgb-coveropen-crop-6534x6677-autowb-destalum-grayscale.png

It's remarkable how much the dust on a scanner only seems to show up in the scanned images, especially when you're scanning glass :-)

If you really want the original, color, scan, here it is: mergenthaler-linofilm-font-garamond-no-3-roman-1200rgb-coveropen-crop-6534x6677.png But it's 61 Megabytes and the distinctive red background color seen around the grid and through the letterforms in it is an artifact of scanning which is not present in the original. So use it with caution lest you mislead someone into thinking that somehow Mergenthaler was selling rose-tinted fonts :-)

3. Linofilm Tape

The Mergenthaler Linofilm used an unusual 15-level paper tape with two rows of sprocket holes. Here's a scan of a scrap of 15-level tape, with a steel rule in decimal inches and a scrap of 6-level Teletypesetter tape for comparison.

The 6-level TTS tape is 7/8 inch wide (by standard). The 15-level Linofilm tape is 1 25/32 wide (as measured).

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As usual, the image above links to a 2048 pixel wide JPEG version. This should be sufficient for normal viewing. Here is the original 1200dpi RGB PNG scan (60 Megabytes): paper-tape-15-level-mergenthaler-linofilm-and-6-level-teletypesetter-with-steel-rule-1200rgb-rot90ccw.png

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