Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Courier All Caps Is No No

One of my pet peeves, which I may have mentioned before, is the failure of people to take advantage of the possibilities the computer has given us: specifically the failure to use proportionally spaced type and lower case when communicating.

Back in the early 70's my boss gave me a research project: see if I could find a replacement for our IBM MT/ST typewriters.  As part of the research I read a paper on the benefits of proportional spacing: more legible, easier and faster to read, less misunderstanding.  That's why for hundreds of years printed material was in various proportionally space fonts. 

At that time, typewriters were limited; the usual choices were 10 pt courier and 12 pt. elite, though the IBM Selectric offered more variety, but only the IBM Composer offered proportional spacing for print shop/forms design use.

Meanwhile we still had telegraphs going, which mostly were all cap and monospaced. IIRC even in teletype terminals which used CRT's, that was true. 

Anyhow, places like the State Department and Weather Service which had the telegraph system incorporated into their bones have continued to use monospacing and all caps well into the 21st century.  State may have transitioned off.  And now Brad Plumer at Vox tells us that the Weather Service is going half-way, abandoning the all-caps, but not the Courier font.

IMHO this is a fine case study in bureaucratic inertia.

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