Why Font Nerds Owe a Debt to Steve Jobs

Why Font Nerds Owe a Debt to Steve Jobs

This caught my attention over coffee and the Sunday paper (I know! Weekend luddite, is what an affectionate — I think — friend calls me) a book entirely devoted to fonts called “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield.

I was half listening to NPR, which started talking about the book by interviewing journalists about their fave fonts (Garamond figures heavily) when Steve Jobs took center stage.

Garfield launches the book an intro called Love Letters featuring Jobs, and, well, that’s a pretty fitting title.

You’ve probably heard the story of how Jobs, before dropping out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon became so fascinated by school’s handmade signs that he took up calligraphy.

His focus on the humble font — introducing them in the Mac and naming these fonts after the cities of his heart (Toronto, Chicago) — would become a “a seismic shift in our everyday relationship with letters and with type. An innovation that, within another decade or so, would place the word ‘font’ — previously a piece of technical language limited to the design and printing trade — in the vocabulary of every computer user,” Garfield says.

Garfield goes on to talk of the type legacy Jobs created and how other computer companies later tried to catch up.

“…the ability to change fonts at all seemed like technology from another planet. Before the Macintosh of 1984, primitive computers offered up one dull typeface, and good luck trying to italicize it. But now there was a choice of alphabets that did their best to re-create something we were used to from the real world. Chief among them was Chicago, which Apple used for all its menus and dialogs on screen, right through to the early iPods…

IBM and Microsoft would soon do their best to follow Apple’s lead, while domestic printers (a novel concept at the time) began to be marketed not only on their speed but for the variety of their fonts.”

Full excerpt over at NPR


Related
  • Ida Mirras

    ,,,,,,,,,

  • Ida Mirras

    ,,,,,,,,,,

  • JulianKeznde

    I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use http://tinyurl.com/4yqy2vz

  • JulianKeznde

    still can’t believe it I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use http://alturl.com/8yjuf

  • flyboybob

    The ease with which my first Macintosh 512K computer could produced documents with different fonts amazed me considering the amount of work it took to produce a similar document in letter press. I remembered back to 1961, when in Jr. High School printing shop I struggled with setting hand type in a composing stick while learning the basics of the graphic arts. That first project was set in 12 pt. 20th Century School Book. 

  • Len Williams

    Reminds me of my first Mac, an SE/30 running OS 6 back in 1989, and my Imagewriter dot matrix impact printer. It was a revolution at the time, but now seems archaic to the point of the horse and buggy. As usual, Steve Jobs and Apple were at the cutting edge of design and technology and everyone else followed. Sounds familiar.

  • Jeff

    Typeface. 

  • Paul A Leblanc

    Nonsense. Donlad Knuth published his first version of METAFONT in 1977.

About the author

Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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