Whatever happened to …

… mono-spaced fonts?

Peter McAsh posted this image recently….

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That took me back.  Well, to the early years of ECOO for sure, but look at that type.

Those of us who took typing in high school will recognize the mono-spaced font.

It was the perfect font for typewriters.  It made everything academic and mathematical.  There were 10 characters in an inch and it didn’t matter what character.  A space or an I or a W took exactly the same size.  When I think about it, it made marking so easy for the typing teacher.  Since we were all typing the same text, you could, in theory, hold the work against a master, hold it to the light, and see all the mistakes.  I still remember that typing wasn’t about success in typing, it was about minimizing errors while typing as quickly as you could.  And, putting two spaces after at the end of a sentence – something I still do today.  Before you poo-poo that, think of your modern touch enabled device.  How do you enter a period?  Double-tap.  I rest my case.

Kids today will never know the instruction “Set up for a 60 stroke line”.  Picture them all pulling out their phones to do the calculation.  Why?  We’ve moved away from mono-spaced fonts to proportional fonts where a character is only as wide as it needs to be.  So, a W does indeed take up more room than an I.  Or especially a space.  With proportional fonts, it hard to tell if I put two spaces at the end of a sentence.  Also, with proportional fonts, you had better learn how tabs work!  In a mono-spaced world, since every space was the same width, you could do nice tables with alignment created by entering spaces.  Not when they’re proportional.

I think now about how regimented everything was.  The only way that you could change the font on your Underwood typewriter was to take the Office Practice course where they got to work on IBM Selectric Typewriters and the interchangeable type ball.

In the electronic world where we prize innovation, we might be aghast to think that the move to a typewriter to a electronic printer was just a matter of replicating what a typewriter already did well.  There were daisy wheel printers, or ball printers, or this new fangled dot-matrix printer thing but the tie that bound them together was the mono-spaced font!  Sure, there were versions of the fonts but that boiled down to size and weight; the character set remained the same.  So, in Peter’s picture above, it really doesn’t matter what device generated that text.

Even the type on our early computer screens was mono-spaced although computer companies labeled it with a company name twist on the standard.  I still prefer the mono-spaced appearance when I’m programming.

Now, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who uses mono-spaced fonts – well except maybe lawyers and the courts and book publishers.  Standard implementation of software comes with a variety of fonts and you can always get more, if you want.  There’s even a big list of mono-spaced fonts, if they turn your crank.

Personally, I’ve tried a lot of fonts looking for one that I could call my own.  I had a superintendent who made a habit of changing the font on everything that he did to Verdana.  It was, as he called it, his signature font.  I let him know that there were fonts of handwriting that could really do a signature but it was a no sell.

I’ve tried but I keep bouncing around.  Yet, my tendency seems to be some version of Arial.  My current favourite is the Ubuntu font.

As you’re reading this post, you’re reading it in Ubuntu font.

I think it’s nice, crisp, and easy to read with no serifs.  I’m not a fan of fonts with serifs – they remind me of text books.  So, no Times New Roman for me.

Speaking of serifs, I’ll open a can of worms here and nominate Comic Sans as my least favourite font.

I mean, how can you take anyone seriously when they use that font.  Somebody at Microsoft must have been having a bad Clippy day.

For a Sunday, what are your thoughts about mono-spaced fonts?

  • Did you learn to keyboard on a manual typewriter?
  • Is there a place in your world for a mono-spaced font today?
  • Do you have a signature font?
  • Everything comes at a price, including an over abundance of fonts.  Do you ever delete fonts from your computer if you don’t use them

I’m sure that everyone would love to read your thoughts about fonts.

Please add them in the comments below.

This post is part of a regular Sunday series “Whatever happened to …”.  You can find them all here.

Go ahead, have an opinion.  We all do!  And, add your thoughts to the Padlet if you have a topic that you’d like to see addressed here.

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7 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. My signature font is Comic Sans. Now before everyone loses their minds, let me explain. As a Kindergarten teacher, the font is perfect, as the letters look similar to how they do when we print them. That said, recently I have experimented with many different fonts. I like that children can learn to recognize letters even when they are printed differently. This helps when reading books or texts with many different type faces. It’s why we also looked at the cursive writing alphabet. Now there’s another can of worms. 🙂 Thanks, as always, for another trip down memory lane!

    Aviva

  2. Hah! I knew you’d comment about Comic Sans. Actually, I think we have had this discussion before. Of course, it’s a personal preference. I wonder, though, if we couldn’t get a better font that mimics hand printing. Comic Sans always looks a bit shaky to me too! Anyway, I know that I’m not going to convince you so I’m moving along here….

  3. Haha! I think we have had this chat before. I also like Courier. It’s similar to printing, but less shaky. The lines are not as pronounced though, which can make them harder to see. The font talk is always good for a comment! 🙂

    Aviva

  4. Oops! I said Courier, but meant Century Gothic. Courier is also pretty good though. This is probably enough font talk for one day. 🙂

    Aviva

  5. I learned on a manual typewriter many years ago. Proportional fonts forced me to move to early word processing software (actually Runoff – remember that? One of several markup language that we used to run through processing software to create documents.)

    THe other day I did talk about monospaced fonts when I had my students do a little exercise involving ASCII art of a sort. We don’t see that much anymore either.

    BTW I always liked Times New Roman but these days I don’t pay a lot of attention to fonts.

  6. I like Broadway http://fontsgeek.com/fonts/Broadway-Regular, but I have a weakness for art deco fonts. It’s too decorative to read though, but good for posters and titles.

    For reading I usually go for arial but recently have been preferring Trebuchet https://www.myfonts.com/fonts/microsoft/trebuchet/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAiKrUBRD6ARIsADS2OLn1B3-UN6EjbTMRsPmw2xTQWIwFrCXNtyTxAmFoh7p_XYxWjXX_lzYaAlJVEALw_wcB it’s nice and clean.

    Oddly, if I’m going for a computer styled font I use something like Courier which is a web friendly way to imitate those old fixed width fonts https://www.myfonts.com/fonts/microsoft/courier-new/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAiKrUBRD6ARIsADS2OLnfMx1LblHmfXsmRm32zv_x9kHDMf5_ySTNErPWQ_7GmrGvY-qQCsMaApnbEALw_wcB

    If you’ve never messed around with fonts, you’re missing something.

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