[vcf-midatlantic] Gauging Interest: CompuGraphic MCS hardware

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Thu Nov 7 14:15:57 EST 2019

> I'm helping to clear out a storage unit that belonged to a deceased friend,
> and I've come across some CompuGraphic MCS hardware: Does anyone have any interest in this? 

Kenneth, If I recall these are early 1980's or late 1970's technology. 
While these may not be of interest within "vintage personal computing", 
they are a part of a segment of microcomputing and computing of 
typeography and digital publishing.  I'm writing the following from 
memory, so I may have some ideas and references mushed up. But I'm 
making a point: this CompuGraphic stuff isn't just ugly boxes of boards 
and clunky mechanical stuff. Details, you can look up.

There was a prior revolution in typesetting by use of PHOTOtypesetting 
instead of physical blocks of type laid out by hand. Wheels of typefonts 
were projected by character, onto photosensitive paper, to produce text 
masters. A textbook would be a good application example. You needed a 
lot of wheels (master fonts) and they were proprietary (hard to 
replicate) and not cheap. Big business only, and in a world of PAPER 
information ONLY there were a lot of them.

But the next revolution, was to use a CRT instead of optical projection. 
The CRT was driven digitally; just bits on a screen. Minicomputers 
(PDP-8s) were the initial digital technology, and later microprocessors 
made that digital technology cheaper. A company or service could now 
produce quality text copy, in a unit that took much less space, and 
which stored fonts on digital media not mechanical font-wheels.

Since all the visual stuff was "in the machine", one could drive this 
technology with a text-based description language, on a computer without 
all this typeset technology. This is why old schemes like DEC's "runoff" 
were popular. A lot of these applications, drove mechanical text 
printers like daisy-wheel, IBM Selectrics, and other such printers. One 
made do with overprinting on simpler printers.

Other steps followed later of course: laser printing for direct 
production of text; and computers with the power to compose pages 
visually. Note that TeX was early software means to compose type-set 
text and arbitrary graphics (math symbols, etc).

But once personal laser printers could produce bit images, and 
microcomputers could run complete page-editing software; and once this 
stuff became "personally" priced; all these "phototypsetting" services 
went away except for massive printing services. And all the mechanical 
and optical printing technologies became "junk".

So the CompuGraphic stuff is at the junction of these events. It's small 
enough to be manageable by a person or small institution. And it has 
some hope of working. There may be people or groups interested in just 
this segment - mostly post-60-year-olds from the era, I imagine.

That's my "any interest" comments.

Herb Johnson

Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey in the USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preserve, recover, restore 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT com
or try later herbjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT info

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