Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Ultimate Oldschool PC Font Pack (v1.0)

Character(-set) Assassination: a Monospace Odyssey

At long last, it's done - the world's biggest collection of classic text mode fonts, system fonts and BIOS fonts from DOS-era IBM PCs and compatibles.
You get:
  • Pixel-perfect reproductions of the original raster fonts!
  • TrueType (TTF) and bitmap (FON) remakes for 81 character sets!
  • Multi-lingual Unicode enhancements of the more popular fonts (and some less-popular ones)!
  • Multi-platform compatibility!

The Ultimate Oldschool PC Font Pack started out with the idea of paying tribute to ancient PCs and their bitmapped, pre-GUI typography (if you can call it that). It was inspired by similar efforts that cover other vintage machines: classic system fonts from the Amiga, C64, Apple II, Mac, ZX Spectrum, Atari 8-bit/ST etc. are all celebrated. On the other hand, the IBM PC and its clones seem to get little love... except for that one VGA text mode font (which has been remade numerous times, to varying degrees of success).

This collection is here to remedy that, and to bring you pixel-perfect remakes of various type styles from text-mode era PCs - in modern, multi-platform, Unicode-compatible TrueType form (plus straight bitmap versions).

Although the goal is to make it a complete resource, the main focus is on hardware character sets: the kind that's located in a ROM chip on the system board or graphics card, which is what you'd see by default when working in text (or graphics) mode. Software-loadable fonts are also within the scope of this collection (if associated with a particular machine or display system), so some of these have also made it in.

Here's what's inside (for now):
  • IBM PC Fonts (PC BIOS, CGA/PCjr, MDA, EGA, VGA/MCGA, PGC, 3270 PC, PC Convertible, PS/2 ISA models)
  • Fonts from PC clones (Amstrad PC1512, AT&T PC6300, Tandy 1000, AMI BIOS, DTK/ERSO, ITT Xtra, Kaypro 2000, Phoenix BIOS, VTech Laser XT)
  • Fonts from various graphics hardware (ATI VGA Wonder / Small Wonder, Phoenix EGA, Rendition Verite, Wyse WY-700)
  • System-specific DOS/software fonts (AST Premium Exec, IBM-DOS ISO-compliant, Compaq-DOS, Toshiba-DOS)

Oh yeah, I'm releasing the whole bunch under a Creative Commons (BY-SA 4.0) license.  Have at it!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Windows (and ClearType) vs. TrueType fonts with embedded bitmaps

Round 1: FIGHT!

While I was working on the TrueType versions of the BigBlue Terminal font (and on my upcoming pack of oldschool PC font remakes), a stubborn annoyance cropped up in the form of ClearType. Microsoft's subpixel text rasterizer (optimized for flat-panel displays) doesn't play nice at all with TrueType pixelfonts -- that is, scalable fonts, whose outlines are designed to snap to the pixel grid at a particular size. Depending on your choice of foreground and background colors, you may see smudged colorful fringes that clearly have no business being there:

Without ClearType, the TrueType outlines obediently stick to the pixel grid: the rendering is identical to the bitmap version of the font. With ClearType, the subpixel rasterization somehow causes the red and blue color components to be shifted away in opposite directions, "overflowing" the grid. This looks laughably similar to the color fringing artifacts that marred text on composite monitors decades ago, even if the causes are entirely different.