Casting types in a virtual world

brockfrench's picture

I had a vision of setting type characters in a virtual space, and I wonder if there's a model for a 'fully functional' virtual movable type machine, where you'd have to set all of these voxelous type characters for fauxpress...

and then I thought there should be an entire virtual library of 'liveable' virtual experiences encompassing a range or rare and antiquated production techniques of all kinds.

and now I'm thinking about eating some fruit.

Joshua Langman's picture

I believe there's an iPad app that does something like this, and even lets you get your designs letterpress printed.

[Edit:] Ah, here it is:

jslabovitz's picture

I've been interested in this, too, and have also considered a sort of virtual shop of virtual typesetting machines.

I was reading up on how Linotype machines really worked (in detail), and wondered whether someone had written a simulator. I couldn't find one, so spent some time writing a very basic text-only simulator (in the Ruby language). I found I could easily code up the basic operations: a keyboard, a magazine, a spaceband box, an assembler, and a caster. The complications arise as you get closer to the physical nature of the machine, which is really several machines running at once, linked together via some complex timing.

Having just taken a short Monotype compositor workshop last weekend, I'm now thinking of coding a simulator for that machine, just for fun.

So I think there's some promise here, but it depends on whether you're just trying to codify essentially a mathematical model of a machine, or a full simulation with lots of moving parts.


brockfrench's picture

Thank you both.

I imagined a full interactive simulation, where mistakes can be made...
If that kickstarter project moves to a tangible full-service letterpress printer, I'll be interested to follow their progress, but I'm not much for schlocky iPad experiences. Fun though!

oprion's picture

A Linotype simulator would be awesome! You could even include a mini-game of dodging virtual squirts! And maybe a penny-in-a-slug easter egg. Make sure to include "hanging the elevator" limitation when an operator would type so fast that the machine needed time to finish the casting cycle before a new line could be keyed. Getting to this point would give you a ""Smooth Operator" achievement :)

Additional skins can account for different models.

John Hudson's picture

Oooh, yeah! And you could earn different models or extensions. So, for instance, once you got really good on the Model 25 you would earn the 34-channel auxiliary magazine to turn it into a Model 26.

And, of course, real experts could progress to non-Latin composing. I have a copy of the Linotype Devanagari manual.

Maurice Meilleur's picture


The folks behind the iOS app at are also the folks who run Living Letter Press in Champaign, Illinois. They are about as letterpress-printy as you can get, and there is talk--if it hasn't been implemented already--of adding a function to the app that allows you to send your design to their shop to be made for reals.

brockfrench's picture

Oprion - no mini-games, achievements, badges or fun.
John, could you share a choice image or two from your Devanagari manual? (If you have them available, don't make an extra effort to scan them.)
Thanks Maurice, I like your face.

John Hudson's picture

Here is the keyboard layout from the LT Devanagari manual. I have scanned the whole thing, but the PDF is >5 MB.

From this illustration, you can see clearly the technological influence of the Linotype hot metal composing machine on Indian typography. Consonant conjuncts are mostly represented using so-called half-forms, rather than as ligatures, and even many full form letters are represented as half-form plus short a vowel sign. So, for example, to enter the Hindi letter pa प you would need to hit two keys in sequence: 17 and 1.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I wonder if there is something like this for Second Life or Minecraft?

oprion's picture

Here's the layout of the Russian Linotype keyboard (Model 2Н-140).

And, just to be clear, first row, second letter from the top (upside-down д) should be а "е".
So that "оена исмвыгу" corresponds to "etaoinshrdlu".

Michel Boyer's picture

So that "оена исмвыгу" corresponds to "etaoinshrdlu".

Thanks for letting me know where Terry Winograd took the name SHRDLU for his natural language computer program:

The name SHRDLU was derived from ETAOIN SHRDLU, the arrangement of the alpha keys on a Linotype machine, arranged in descending order of usage frequency in English.

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