“HEY! WHADDYA KNOW ABOUT TYPE?”

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

How is one to assess and evaluate a type face in terms of its esthetic design?  Why do the pace-makers in the art of printing rave over a specific face of type?  What do they see in it?  Why is it so superlatively pleasant to their eyes?  Good design is always practical design.  And what they see in a good type design is, partly, its excellent practical fitness to perform its work.  It has a ‘heft’ and balance in all of its parts just right for its size, as any good tool has.”  –Alexander Lawson,

Anatomy of a Typeface, p.345 (1990) anatomy of a typeface

When I began as a school administrator in Minnesota in 1973 (many memoriesofatime), many school districts had already put aspects of Title IX into the school district curriculum, aside from sports.  Shop classes and Home Ec classes were “integrated.”  At the same time, to be “fair,” some schools had even added required typing for all 10th grade students so that the traditional course was not any longer “girls only.” 

On any given school day, one could hear the clacking sound of typewriter keys from the typing room, set aside with 25-35 desks and manual typewriters, and, perhaps, five or so Smith-Corona electric machines for advanced proficient students.  One might observe a business teacher, male or female, pacing in the aisles, checking the work of the students, or even observe a few male students who were longhair throwbacks of the 60s, now required to wear hairnets lest their locks become tangled in the inner workings of the keys of the machines.  It did happen.

So most Minnesota high school graduates of that era learned non-sexist equality gender-free typing.  On the other hand, high school students in Florida, at the same time, had one required course in the curriculum, not typing, not World History, not English 10, but rather “AVC”: “AMERICANISM vs COMMUNISM.”

Following the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961, the 1961 Florida Legislature passed a law [233.064 (1961), Florida Statutes] mandating all junior and senior public high school students in Florida take the six-week course, Americanism vs. Communism.  The course remained an educational requirement until the law was repealed in 1983 and replaced with a mandatory economics course:

avc bulletin 2

“THE FLORIDA LAW SECTION 230.23 (4) (1), Florida Statutes: Americanism vs. communism; required high school course  1. The legislature of the state hereby finds it to be a fact that a. The political ideology commonly known and referred to as communism is in conflict with and contrary to the principles of constitutional government of the United States … b.  The successful exploitation and manipulation of youth and student groups throughout the world today are a major challenge, which the free world forces must meet, defeat, and c.  The best method of meeting this challenge is to have the youth of the state and nation thoroughly and completely informed as to the evils, dangers, and fallacies of communism …  2.  The public high schools shall each teach a complete course of not less than thirty hours, to all students enrolled in said public high schools entitled “Americanism versus communism.”  3. The course shall provide adequate instruction in the history, doctrines, objectives, and techniques of communism and shall be for the primary purpose of instilling in the minds of the students a greater appreciation of democratic processes, freedom under law, and the will to preserve that freedom.  4. The course shall be … in comparative governments and shall emphasize the free-enterprise-competitive economy of the United States … which produces higher wages, higher standards of living, greater personal freedom  and liberty than any other system of economics on earth.  5. The course shall lay particular emphasis upon the … false doctrines of communism.  6. The state textbook committee and the state board of education shall … prescribe suitable textbook and instructional material … using as one of its guides the official reports of the house committee on un-American activities and the senate internal security sub-committee of the United States congress.

communism bookONE EXAMPLE OF ADOPTED TEXT

7.  No teacher or textual material assigned to this course shall present communism as preferable to the system of constitutional government and the free-enterprise-competitive economy indigenous to the United States. 8. The course of study hereinabove provided for shall be taught in all of the public high schools of the state no later than the school year commencing in September 1962.”

 What a shock for me when I moved to Florida to teach: I began in the summer of 1980 registering students for classes.  I discovered only ONE required course: “AVC.”  (However, to be fair, I point out that the schools were going through a transition to have the law changed.)

Imagine me, on the other hand, in 10th grade, 1956-1957, parsing and declining Latin and Greek, and studying other sophomore grade subjects, like geometry.  Yet no typing classes.  In fact, I never had a typing course and had/have had to hunt-n-peck my way through QWERTY after receiving a Christmas present Underwood in 1956, useful through high school, college, and most of graduate school.  (I still have many of the papers to prove it.)

underwood typewriter

JUST LIKE MY PORTABLE UNDERWOOD

That machine, truly a collector’s item that still worked, is long gone now, purchased by a “picker” collector who knew a good deal when she saw the sixty-year-old beauty, with Courier typeface–one typeface that many of us were used to, Courier.  What type?

“Courier is a monospaced slab serif typeface designed to resemble the output from a strike-on typewriter.  The typeface was designed in 1955, later redrawn for the IBM Selectric Composer series of electric typewriters” (Wikipedia).

Those lucky few advanced typing students in the 1970s in Minnesota were later allowed to demonstrate their excellence on the Selectrics.  In addition, secretaries throughout the nation were purchasing “golf-ball” heads with various fonts never before readily available on “normal” typing machines for their newly acquired office machines.

IBM GOLFBALL.jpg

IBM SELECTRIC “GOLF BALL” TYPE FACES

Although IBM commissioned the design of the original Courier typeface, the company deliberately chose not to secure legal exclusivity to the typeface, nor seek any copyright, trademark, or design patent protection.  So Courier typeface cannot be trademarked or copyrighted and is completely royalty free.  It soon became a standard font used throughout the typewriter industry. 

courier and courier new.jpg

 A variant, however, 12-point Courier New, the U.S. State Department’s standard typeface until January 2004, was replaced with a 14-point, more “modern” and “legible” font, Times New Roman: “Of all the typefaces developed during the past seventy-five years [Times (New) Roman], is the one most frequently singled out as typifying the twentieth century” (Lawson 270). Times_New_Roman_versus_Georgia

Different fonts, italics, and speed helped make the transition to the keyboard of the PC, with QWERTY, and many, many choices of fonts, sizes, and black letter.  Now, What’s your type?  can be GEORGIA, Arial, Garamond, or PALATINO–and many more to mention here, upper case-lower case, that suits your fancy, or whatever serif-non-serif required by APA, MLA, CMS, or an office handbook, available on word processing programs, from A-Z, like Algerian to___–and in colors!

Technology is so much with us, “To boldly go where no man has gone before!”  “The computer is the most advanced typographic product yet to appear; it would seem to be the culmination of almost five and a half centuries of progress in the transfer of the scribal hands to the printed page.  Engineers have thus provided the means for printers to continue enriching the heritage they have provided humankind.  Now the responsibility falls on the printers to control the new technology and make it serve the great legacy of their time-honored craft” (Lawson 403).

© JAMES F. O’NEIL  2018

 

APA original_editor_example_double_spaced

 

 

 

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1 comment
  1. Fonts have always fascinated me. Thanks for this lovely history of typefaces.

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