Friday, September 10, 2004

IBM Selectric Composer

On the hunch (bwahaha), that the CBS documents in the 60 minutes story might be real and feasibly could have been typed on a IBM Selectric Composer which had proportionally spaced fonts (which undoubtably the document's type is), I spent entirely too much time reading the various manuals fot it. (1966 documentation, I believe).

Aside from my personal opinion that these things were so so much more over-designed than what the folks at the TexANG would need one for, that, if one were purchased, it would shortly be taken on a one-way flight over the Gulf of Mexico. Something like buying a garbage truck to tote your trash to the curb on a Monday evening.

There are a few things I now know about them (lucky me):

They are designed for proportionally spaced type. Not only that, Composer design had a multi-language concept requiring specialized fonts in 4 language classifications to be compatible with a single unified horizontal unit escarpment. Anyway, they came up with four basic national type fonts arrangements and 3 specialized ones. It is interesting that they did not think of the "th". (Not that that means anything.)

The composer could adjust the vertical line spacing from 5 to 20 points to have whatever much white space between lines of text.

The typing was unusual, if I understand it correctly. You type a whole line into the Composer, look to see what color and number this little window has in it and the you turn a knobs on the right hand side to that color and number and then, hit a button I guess and the machine types the line. I suppose you could get good and fast at this. I didn't read anything about a bell though.

Centering is fun, too. Way too much fun to bother with and I am going way out on a limb with this but I would have eyed it every time.

The only font could find mentioned in the docs was Press Roman but I haven't been able to locate this and compare to a Times New Roman. I can't imagine someone would not just use what the distributor said came with the brand spankin' new machine.

Anyway, I am pretty much done trying to be a Composer expert. Let me say one thing, if those docs are authentic, Killian didn't type them. He wouldn't have even gotten the machine turned on before he had that thing under his arm looking for W to be taking a special flight over the Gulf.

Disclaimer: I love you IBM, I own an IBM computer and use Word Pro and Via Voice, so please let me keep getting product updates.

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