[vcf-midatlantic] Gauging Interest: CompuGraphic MCS hardware

Jonathan Gevaryahu jgevaryahu at gmail.com
Thu Nov 7 14:27:48 EST 2019

This isn't the famous Linotron 202 phototypesetter that Condon, 
Kernighan and Thompson famously reverse engineered to fix a lot of bugs 
in it in the summer of 1979 as described in the paper at 
but it is a related item, and intact phototypesetters are INCREDIBLY 
RARE. This could well be the last one of its type.

On 11/7/2019 2:15 PM, Herb Johnson via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
>> 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.
> Regards,
> Herb Johnson
> retrotechnology.com

Jonathan Gevaryahu
jgevaryahu at gmail.com
jgevaryahu at hotmail.com

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