MacTronic: Monotype Typesetting from Computer

Har­ry McIn­tosh’s advanced sys­tem to take word-processed text on a PC to gleam­ing new met­al types

Harry McIntosh, Speedspools
Har­ry McIn­tosh, Speed­spools

Mac­Tron­ic is a hybrid of com­put­er and Mono­type set­ting.  Har­ry McIn­tosh’s sys­tem replaces the Mono­type key­board with a com­put­er and dri­ves the cast­er with com­put­er sig­nals and not paper tape.  The result is a sys­tem that allows text to be pre­pared and then sent direct­ly to the cast­er to pro­duce brand-new per­fect types.  This arti­cle looks in a lit­tle more detail at how the sys­tem works.

Monotype Casting

Pro­duc­ing Mono­type mat­ter orig­i­nal­ly need­ed the text to be keyed on a com­pressed-air pow­ered key­board which punched holes in paper tape. The air going through these holes posi­tioned the matrix-case over the sta­tion­ary mould to obtain the required char­ac­ter. Because of the dif­fer­ences between faces, dif­fer­ent sets of key­bars, stop­bars, etc. were need­ed for each face to account for spac­ing and width of each char­ac­ter. For exam­ple, the width of a Gill Con­densed W is small­er than a Latin Expand­ed W. As the cast­er need­ed to know where each line end­ed the width of each char­ac­ter had to be record­ed: hence the need for dif­fer­ent key­bars, etc. A change of type size or type­face with­in the process would need oth­er key­bars, etc. to be used — for exam­ple, in head­ings with­in a report, foot­notes, Greek, etc.

The orig­i­nal sys­tem also demand­ed that the oper­a­tor had an under­stand­ing of where and how to break each line, and they relied on a rotat­ing indi­ca­tor (Jus­ti­fi­ca­tion Drum) at the top of the key­board to help them. As there was no mon­i­tor or hard-copy out­put (aside from the paper tape) errors or cor­rec­tions could only be made once the type had been cast.

In sum­ma­ry the orig­i­nal approach need­ed a key­board plus key­banks, key­bars, etc. for each face and the oper­a­tor to have a high degree of accu­ra­cy and judge­ment to get the paper tape right.

MacTronic

This is a hybrid of com­put­er and Mono­type set­ting. Har­ry McIn­tosh’s sys­tem replaces the Mono­type key­board with a com­put­er (PC only at the moment) and dri­ves the cast­er with com­put­er sig­nals rather than paper tape. The result is a sys­tem that allows text to be pre­pared and then sent direct­ly to the cast­er to pro­duce brand-new per­fect types. This arti­cle looks in a lit­tle more detail at how the sys­tem works.

In the ear­li­er ver­sions of Mac­Tron­ic, the com­put­er was used to dri­ve a Mono­type elec­tron­ic tape punch­ing machine and the tape was fed to the cast­er. Har­ry still uses the same punch-unit and cur­rent direct-to-cast­er soft­ware to sup­ply spools of tape for cus­tomers who want to cast type on their own cast­ers.

Har­ry lat­er devel­oped a direct inter­face: a sys­tem of com­pressed air valves con­trolled by com­put­er attached to the head of the cast­er: open­ing valves to allow com­pressed air to flow to the required matrix-case stop but­tons and so repli­cat­ing the orig­i­nal action of punch-holes in the paper tape.

Text Preparation

Text from the author is import­ed into InDesign/OpenOffice Writer. Har­ry then replaces the author’s faces with his own com­put­er fonts that are faith­ful repli­cas of the Mono­type cast faces, along with the type size, text width, etc. This step is need­ed because stan­dard PC Baskerville, for exam­ple, is slight­ly dif­fer­ent to Mono­type Hot-met­al Baskerville. Any minor changes need­ed at this point are made: hyphen­ation, line length, etc. and InDesign/OpenOffice Writer now show on-screen what the Mono­type cast­er will pro­duce. At this point a PDF can be cre­at­ed and returned to the author so that they can see what the final­ly cast out­put will look like. After any text changes have been made, a Hot-Met­al Plug-in is used to cre­ate a usable Mac­Tron­ic file — this pre­serves the new for­mat­ting, includ­ing spac­ing, tables, align­ment, line-end­ings, etc. Har­ry’s web pages lists the faces he has avail­able for cast­ing, but Mac­Tron­ic can cope with any Mono­type face -– all that is need­ed is a matrix-case, wedge and char­ac­ter unit-val­ues or matrix case arrange­ment.

Preparation to Cast

This file is then sent to the Jus­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram that con­tains an elec­tron­ic ver­sion of the required matrix-case; pre­de­ter­mined line-length gal­leys per file are pro­duced and can be used to cast type or pro­duce punched tape. Any dif­fer­ent type sizes or type­faces are sent to sep­a­rate files, and equiv­a­lent spaces (usu­al­ly cap ‘X’s and low­er­case ‘i’s) are left in main text for man­u­al inser­tion -– more than one line is indi­cat­ed once only. The wedge set­tings and char­ac­ters can be mod­i­fied with­in the elec­tron­ic matrix-case.

Casting

The gal­ley punch files are sent to the Cast­er Dri­ver Pro­gram that sends the cast­ing instruc­tions via USB to the Mac­Tron­ic Inter­face. From here every­thing fol­lows the usu­al course of Mono­type cast­ing: there’s a love­ly calm­ing sound as the machine pro­duces let­ter-by-let­ter accord­ing to the com­put­er’s instruc­tions and these march out of the machine. Brand new, per­fect­ly jus­ti­fied type ready to print.

In sum­ma­ry, the Mac­Tron­ic may appear com­pli­cat­ed to some, but it only requires a few sim­ple, seam­less pro­ce­dures to pro­duce per­fect gal­leys of type:

  1. Text pro­duced by using all text con­trols of InDesign/OpenOffice Writer, includ­ing indents, tables, etc.
  2. Cre­ate a Mac­Tron­ic-com­pat­i­ble file using InDesign/OpenOffice Writer Hot- met­al Plug-ins -– all fonts, line-end­ings, etc. are retained.
  3. Cre­ate a punch file using Jus­ti­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram.
  4. Send punch file to Cast­er Dri­ver Pro­gram to cre­ate gal­leys of type.

Sorts gal­leys can be pro­duced to any line width (60 ems max.) and mixed amounts of char­ac­ters. Inter­est­ed par­ties are wel­come to see Mac­Tron­ic in action and dis­cuss the many oth­er use­ful fea­tures, or view web­site at Mac­Tron­ic.