Linotype -Computer controlled

One of the most amazing things that I feel fortunate to have witnessed in my years as a printer, was the mating of the old and new in the late 70’s where typesetters were using modern (8 bit) computers to compose type and send a digital signal to the appropriate Linotype for output. The Star Readers which produced a punched paper tape that had to be manually inserted into a reader which would then activate solenoids (I presume) on the appropriate keys of the Linotype to drop the mats, were being phased out. The individual computer terminals which the typesetters used, were networked to a mainframe that would sort the individual orders and had its output devices as a bank of 8 Linotypes. To watch the keyboards of all 8 Linotypes whos keys were all moving as if some phantom typesetter was sitting in front of them was a real sight to see for me. I gained big respect for the Linotype Machinists who had to deal with front squirts and back squirts and cleaning mats and hanging pigs each shift. I can only remember seeing Comets and Meteors at that plant and was surprised at how similar to a Mergenthaler was to an Intertype when I first saw one of those.

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I’d like to witness one of those today. Anyone know where I can buy one?

Actually, the Teletypesetter dates back to the very late 1920s. They used a six “level” code (six punches on the tape; “6-bit” would be an anachronism since they predated the computer). The Associated Press didn’t come on-board with the TTS until 1951, though. Dave Seat has their TTS Style Book online:

Here’s a brochure on the TTS system from 1961, soon after the Teletypesetter Corp. was purchased by Fairchild:

The Star Parts equipment began as a TTS-compatible system and, I believe, evolved into a quite comprehensive system.

I’m still trying to track down enough TTS equipment to convert my Model 5 or Model 29 to TTS, just to do it. I have scanned quite a bit of TTS documentation, though, should anyone need it.

David M. MacMillan

Harry McIntosh in Edinburgh has been running Monotype machines for years now from his computer, using his own development:

A few other people use a similar technique to cast on a Monotype machine.

Bradley Hutchinson here in Austin also uses a similar technique, though I believe his casting units are driven by a compressed air drive that’s regulated by his computer. This may be what’s going inside of the new “box” pictured in the video above, though I didn’t go into details on it with Bradley.

Monotype also developed their own system of keyboard input & computer processing & paper tape output for composition casters; one benefit was that changes of size and face could be done easily without having to input again. Harold Berliner had one of these.
Another independant effort was Monroe Postman’s MonoMac system, using an early Mac for input and processing, and to drive a pneumatic tower on the caster. Three were made, for Monroe, M&H Type, and the third might be with Rich Hopkins, but I’m not sure about that.
The limitation of the Linotype systems, if I understand this correctly, is that they only use TTS mats, which are all news faces. While technically interesting, typographically it is very limited. Most TTS mats have been worn out and scrapped already.

There’s some superb video footage of computer-controlled linecasters (Intertype Monarchs and a C4) on Metal Type here:

These machines are all being used in earnest, producing slugs to create customised gift items.

I was a Lino machinist at the good old rocky Mountain News (Denver) for 20 years. We went through the whole phase of manual typesetting on Linos and Intertype. then came the Cyber revolution. We converted two comets to TTS and had 5 Elektron (Merg) on line. Yes, we had 6 level tape to run them. At this time the two major TTS systems were FAIRCHILD and then Merg had one (that we used called the Autosetter) Fairchild was a complicated 95% mechanical unit that was attached to the keyboard. and they also had a tape puncher that was mostly mechanical.
Merg had a unit that had about 40 little relays in it that sent signals to a set of code bars that bolted on the back of the cam rack. These code bars switched back and forth operated by solenoids. Their system could run the Elektron without a keyboard if necessary.
I would not advise anyone today to try and put any of these units on an old Linotype. The keyboard for fairchild is quite a complicated unit along with the tape reader. It takes a lot of knowledge to get one going. Merg unit requires a lot of electronic and mechanical experience. And NO, the mats were not special for TTS. You could run any unit with regular mats. I am 84 yrs old today and can answer most queries.

Happy Birthday, those comets were great machines, the paper i worked for had 7 comets run by tape, then they got an electron, they had more problems with that electron till they finally slowed it way down. Dick G.

to Walt Willey et al.:

A friend has commented to me that there was a vague, unsubstantiated suggestion that, when newspapers in New South Wales, Australia, went to cold type and computer-assisted composition, keyboards of the Mergenthaler Linotype style were used putting out punched tape; my friend did not know where the tape went to next, but it is feasible it could have been used in some coldtype-setting machines, or to an intermedicate computer. There has been a claim that a lino operator of normal standard could outpace a skilled qwerty operator by a useful margin, and I remember hearing that some of my felllow workers had witnessed a contest. For some enlightenment about keyboard design, try to find (on Internet) Maltron ergonomic keyboards. I wish I could have had access to Mergenthalers’ description of machine maintenance during my apprenticeship. — Alan.