These days, computers offer a wide variety of fonts in almost every configuration. But with early computers, one didn’t really have a choice of fonts, you just had the default typeface that came with the computer. Things weren’t fancy enough for fonts in PCs until the Apple Macintosh. Yet Digi Grotesk is from 1968, long before the Mac.
Before Arial and Segoe, before Comic Sans and Courier, there was Digi Grotesk. Designed by a German guy named Rudolph Hell (or more probably his employees), this is the first true digital typeface.
Digi Grotesk wasn’t exactly intended for display on computer screens, which didn’t exist as we know them in 1968. Instead, it was designed for use in Hell’s pioneering cathode ray typesetting machines, which set text by projecting a CRT image — basically a TV image — onto photosensitive paper through a lens. The machines looked like this:
Digitizing this part of the typesetting process was a huge boon to typesetters, because it meant they could set hundreds, or even thousands, of letters per minute. The machines were the first to store fonts as bitmap images, and this was the first font designed specifically for digital use.
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