Recorded during TypeCon2015: Condensed in Denver, Colorado
In 1967, Dr. A.V. Hershey was working at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory in Virginia; on some of the earliest digital representations of type: The Hershey Fonts.
Hershey used the tools of his time, which likely meant operating room-sized computers on FORTRAN commands. His fonts are nothing like the digital fonts we know today — simple lists of coordinates, to be connected by straight lines, and displayed e.g. on cathode ray tubes. They might look crude; but certainly they were a remarkable achievement for their time.
Given the limitations, it is amazing how comprehensive and elaborate Hershey’s designs are. A fair amount of alphabets was created; not only for Latin, but also for Greek and Japanese. A wide range of styles and variants was “drawn” too: Sans-Serif, Serif (including Italics and Ligatures), Script — even different styles of Blackletter exist.
I came across this remarkable chapter of type history when reviewing Jean-Baptiste Levée’s “Minotaur” family for Typographica’s “Best of 2014” special. Since then, I have not stopped my research on this — admittedly very specialized — topic, and I think it is time to introduce my discoveries to a bigger audience.