• Home
    Guides – Phototypesetting machine

    Equipment and Materials Required

    1. Phototypesetting Machine: This is the main equipment used to set type in a photographic process. Examples of these machines are the Linotron 202 or the Compugraphic EditWriter Model 7500.
    2. Photographic Paper or Film: This is what the machine will expose to light, creating an image of the desired page of text.
    3. Darkroom: Operating a phototypesetting machine requires a room in which light can be controlled — a darkroom, similar to that used in traditional photography.
    4. Processing Chemicals: Solutions needed to develop the image on the photographic paper or film.
    5. Adjustable furniture: This includes things like composing sticks, quoin keys, and quoins needed to hold and adjust metal type.

    Here’s a basic guide on how a phototypesettings machine is operated:

    Step 1: Preparing the Machine

    To start, you’ll need to ensure that your phototypesetting machine is clean, operational, and stocked with paper or film. This means loading the paper or film into the machine according to its specific procedures. Do this in a dark room to prevent unwanted exposure.

    Step 2: Inputting Your Text

    Typically, a phototypesetting machine takes input in the form of a punched paper tape. This paper tape has the desired text encoded on it, and is read by the machine. To get the paper tape, you might type out your text on a separate machine, known as a paper tape punch.

    Step 3: Setting Up Font and Size

    Different phototypesetting machines may use different methods for setting the font and size of the type. Most machines use a font box, which contains all the different typefaces it can produce. The size of the font is usually selected on the machine using a rotary dial or a similar control.

    Step 4: Exposing the Text

    After your text is ready the machine will begin to set type. As the paper tape is read by the machine, a light source within the machine shines through a lens, which is covered by a rotating font-containing disk. The light passes through the correct character on the disk and is focused onto the paper or film, exposing it and essentially ‘printing’ that character in that place.

    Step 5: Developing the Film

    Once the printing is done, the exposed paper or film will need to be developed in a similar process to traditional photography. This involves bathing it in different chemicals in a controlled sequence to bring out the image and make it permanent.

    Primary Elements, Concepts and Considerations of Phototypesetting

    Phototypesetting is a method of printing that utilizes the principles of photography. The major concepts include:

    Photographic Exposure: Phototypesetting changes the intensity of light to print characters onto the film. Understanding of exposure times is essential to developing clear, readable type.

    Typography: Knowledge of different font styles, sizes and layout decisions is key to producing aesthetically pleasing and readable text.

    Mechanical Precision: As an operator, understanding the machine-specific process, timing, maintenance and troubleshooting are necessary skills.

    Chemical Processing: A working knowledge of darkroom techniques, including dealing safely and effectively with photographic chemicals, is crucial.

    In a real-world example, daily newspapers were often made with phototypesetting. A Linotype operator would type out the stories of the day, which would be transferred onto paper tape, then read by the phototypesetting machine and printed onto film. After processing, this film would be used to make printing plates for the actual newspaper press.