The History of the Font

Any person who works with computers or the internet will have to understand the concept of fonts. Understanding which fonts to use, and choosing the right fonts, is an important decision for any web designer, web developer, business owner or executive. When designing a winning web page, for instance, it is important to choose a font that will be both pleasing to the eye and easy to read on any type of computer monitor.

The history of the word font goes back far more than the history of the computer, all the way back to the middle ages in fact. In Medieval times the French term fonte, meaning “something that has been melted” referred to the letters of a typeface. The term made sense at the time, since these typefaces were in fact made by casting molten metals.

At the demand for a different number of fonts increased, a number of different typefaces, using a variety of different weights, styles and colors, were designed, including italic fonts, bold fonts and the like.

For many centuries now printers in English speaking companies have used the term font to refer to the multipart metal type which is used to assemble and print in a particular size, style or typeface. These type foundries have been casting fonts using lead alloys from the fifteenth century to the present day. During the 19th century, the advent of mechanical typesetting allowed for the automatic casting of fonts as needed. This innovation was known as continuous casting, and the process remained widespread and profitable all the way into the 1970s.

During the period from the 1950s through the 1990s, phototypesetting, or photographic technology, was able to product fonts that came on discs or rolls of film. This phototypesetting allowed for optical scaling, thus allowing designers to produce different sizes of a single font.

By the mid 1970s, all major typeface technologies were in use, including letter press, continuous casting, manual phototypesetters, computer controlled phototypesetters and the newly developed digital typesetters. These early digital typesetters were huge machines with very small CRT outputs and tiny processors, but the technology would soon grow and change.

During the mid 1980s digital typography for fonts had grown, and users around the world have since adopted the American spelling font. These days this nearly always refers to a computer file which contains a number of scalable outline letter forms, known as a digital font.

Some of these fonts, like Verdana, are designed primarily for display on computer screens, while others are used in a variety of different applications. Those involved in printing, web design, writing and other applications continue to be concerned about using the right fonts, but the process of creating and changing those fonts has been made a great deal easier by modern computer technology.