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Computerised Hyphenation

Started by Mechanic, August 20, 2007, 06:29:32 AM

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When computers were first used to assist typesetting, disc storage was very expensive and limited in storage capacity. To produce justified papertape and perform hyphenation, required a lot of ingenuity by programmers and manufactures. The Linasec used operator intervention for hyphenation. Other manufactures, such Digital, used logic to hyphenate, with an exception dictionary stored on magnetic tape. Some bright programmer, or English scholar, found that most English words could be hyphenated logically, by hyphenating after the second, third, fifth, or seventh letter in the word. It is a little more complex than this, but that's the basic principle. The Readers, employed by the newspaper, (remember Readers?) would list the words not hyphenated correctly, and these words would be entered in the exception dictionary. One word that got a little airtime was "Therapist." it either came out "the- rapist" or "thera- pist." I'm sure there are others, but this is one that was brought to my attention.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

Dave Hughes

Yes I seem to remember in those early photosetting days the local newspaper that served the town of Penistone in South Yorkshire had to make a swift entry in their hyphenation exception dictionary following complaints!
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Steve Young

One of the biggest issues when installing a computer typesetting system (in my case Hendrix / Hastech / Crosfield) in the late 70s and early 80s was hyphenation and justification. I recall editors and subs being adamant about it all being so perfect. Hastech used a setup table that was loaded into volatile memory with max, min and optimum values for each character in each font along with kerning, widow and orphan and exception dictionary tables -- as well as the specific font tables themselves. They were quite complex to set up to each newspapers requirements as each had different typesetters. For the Linotron 202 it was coded in inverse TTS (I suspect that there was a mistake way back down the road that necessitated INVERSE TTS rather than straight TTS, somebody got it back to front). I recall at the South London Press in 1987 I had to write all the font tables and setups from scratch -- a labourious process with many mistakes! -- and at one time in Misset in Holland after a series of CDC disc crashes and no backup as well as no support contract, I had to do the whole process again for their Monotype Lasercomps. The advent of  PostScript saw the end of all this and when Quark and Adobe came along the importance of H and J miraculously disappeared from the mind of Editors ... hence the appalling H and J in the 90s ... it has improved a deal since then.


I can understand your frustration Steve. In Montreal in the early sixties, I installed a Mergenthaler Linofilm, this is the one that had separate keyboards that produced a 15 level tape. Mergenthaler had also interfaced a front-end system that allowed the machine to be driven by six level TTS tape. The justified tape was produced by an IBM 1130 computer. I had never seen this front-end system until I took it out of the box. Fortunately the software was provided by IBM, sans any documentation. I contacted my office and they had a programmer fly up from IBM in California. He got the software running and all was "hunky-dory," until I asked how do you make font, point size and line length changes etc.
He said "Easy just hit the $ key and the computer reads the following keystrokes as instructions."
"And if you want a $?" I asked. "Simple," he replied, "just hit $$."
I informed him that one of the main typesetting jobs the company did was to set food store ads, and could he imagine how confusing it would be for the operator, not to mention the mark up man? He said if I could suggest other keys he could put a patch in. I suggested <  > keys as an option. He put the patch in, informed head office of what he had done, and everyone was more or less happy. 
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

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