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Monotype Composition Caster Interface.

Started by Mechanic, October 31, 2014, 10:50:00 PM

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John Cornelisse

To make it even more interesting, it is also possible to separate a keyboard papertower from the keyboard it s on.

The valves in it, operating the punches, these can be activated by electronic magnets.

And those magnets are a lot cheaper than electronical valves for compressed air.

In this way it is possible to punch the ribbons for composition, and avoid the timeconsuming typing on a keyboard.

The composition caster will operate as before with the paper ribbons, and might be a good idea for all people who love tradition.

Another advantage is the fact that you can type ribbons for any font possible, without the need of all the keybanks and other equipment Monotype delivered for the keyboards.

Photo's of it I will publish within a few days.


Hi John,

I am exploring that way too. It is "easier" and a more natural way to replace the composition keyboard.

I would be quite useful for me if you could share your findings here.

I will do the same.

John Cornelisse

A prototype is built here in Lodz.

Controlling the caster can be done with 31 valves, the ribbon has only 31 positions for code\ing. The code can be stored in 4 bytes.


Using the keyboard paper tower, you need to remember that this devise is a balance machine:

A code line is only made, when at least TWO punches are activated.

ZERO punches is also a possible code: actually it means: O-15

The O and the 15 punch will be raised, but they don't produce a hole in the ribbon, just an empty line.

Using electonical valves, this can be solved by splitting the air of the first bit, and directing it to the punches for O and 15.

For the keyboard you need to count the bits,

when total bits is equal or smaller than one: than bit zero is activated, however this signal need to activate two coils.

another solution possible, is no counting at all, but activating bit zero with every stroke.

John Cornelisse

As it looks now to me, using solonoids to trip the monotype valves would not be a very good idea at all.

these solonoids are not meant to make any force at all, and besides that they would not have a livespan langer than 100.000 cycles.

Within a automation environment, they sure would last not long enough, and do you want to replace them every month ? or even earlier,

In this way they would be a lot more expensive than the Matrix valves

And the 4 matrix blocks at my home they already function more than a decade.

Keri Szafir

Hello and welcome! I just registered, after the registration errors John reported were taken care of.

First a bit about myself: I work for the Book Art Museum in Lodz, Poland, I'm John's apprentice and friend. He taught me quite a lot about working on Monotype composition caster and super caster - but I think I know just 1/10 of what he does :).
Actually I'm the only person who can run the composition caster here... and one of three people who work on the super caster. The others are Paweł Tryzno (museum's owner and master craftsman) and Aleksandra Ilkowska (an art student who does a lot of hand composition and wanted to learn casting her own type). We have quite a few sets of Monotype display matrices inherited from the defunct Warsaw Type Foundry, and quarter a million matrices for Foucher or Künstermann casters... which we can't use without operational casters or attachment for Monotype machines. But this will surely change.

As the device's builder, I can tell you something more about it...
When I first came to out museum back in February 2014, Paweł gave me a tour, showed me all the machines etc., and one of the things I saw was a metal/wooden stand with a strange device attached to it... I got momentarily intrigued: "What is this?". It was a keyboard's perforator, waiting to be connected to a set of valves controlled by electronics and computer.
Paweł then told me about John, his first (or maybe second?) electronic control device, and I knew that it was a project for me... I got in touch with John, exchanged lots of e-mail, built a first prototype controller without valves yet (will tell you about it later) and three months later I went to John's atelier/home in the southern Netherlands. He taught me the basics of composition caster - and I didn't even touch the super caster before, so it was all new to me. He showed me his interface and software, which was a bit too outdated to me. I'm a modern electronics type: Arduino, Raspberry Pi, embedded systems, networking, open-source software - that kind of stuff. Parallel or serial ports, outdated software, controlling the machine from specific devices etc. is not for me. My way was clearly different from John's, and we both have our opinions...

I also did some research about other computer-control projects, like Harry Macintosh or Bill Welliver's ones, or even the old Monotype computer-aided typesetting that used a traditional ribbon as the data carrier. Not much was known about this, but it was mostly meant for Monophoto and is still used by Parnassia in Vättis with an old Z80 computer. Direct control attachments are much more modern. Why didn't Monotype come up with an idea like this? I don't know.

As for my device, I drew conclusions from what I saw earlier and came up with a few design tenets:
-as simple as possible (wide-spread platform with a custom peripheral with few easy to get integrated circuits),
-free and open-source (no dependence on any proprietary hardware, standards/protocols or software),
-networked rather than tethered (control from any device connected to a local network, be it a PC, tablet, smartphone etc. with no need to install any additional software on your device - a web browser should be all you need).
I built the first prototype in March 2014. It was all soldered by me, the technology was well-suited for prototyping (through-hole mount on a perforated circuit board), used the now-outdated Raspberry Pi model B. I started developping the software without any prior knowledge of programming, the outputs control worked nicely from the beginning. The proof of concept worked and in December we bought a set of Matrix 8-way valves for our museum, making it possible to do tests/development with the actual caster. I also did a lot of casting demonstrations for visitors (the first one in May 2015, and the first thing to cast was a hand-coded "Hello World! - the classic phrase every programmer knows). We rarely get any guests, but when they come, I'm more than happy to show them the old machine controlled by the modern tech.
Actually, I could say that these typecasters were "numerically controlled" (by what was essentially a 31-bit perforated paper tape, made with a special "computer" i.e. Monotype keyboard) - and I, as well as Henry, John or Bill, made it a CNC typecaster - "computer numerically controlled"... :)
With the prototype ready, tested and working, I began my slow work to commercialize the project. This was facilitated by the Raspberry Pi model B+ announced in 2014 - its PCB design was much better, with connectors nicely aligned to the edges, with four mounting holes in a rectangular pattern, and what was most important, with a "HAT" (Hardware Attached on Top) i.e. extension boards standard. Simple, compact, nice. I had some trouble designing the PCB (it was my second design, and my first double-sided with surface-mount components), but after finishing I ordered a bunch of them and went to John's place again. John has also ordered two Hammond HM-1550Z139 enclosures (ca. 160x160mm) from Conrad Electronics, and we bought five adjustable switching-mode DC/DC converter modules to provide power for the Raspberries. The circuit boards arrived a few weeks later and we started building the first two devices, one for John and the other for Han Boordman at Heavy Metal Letterpress near Groningen. We had to order the parts (actually, that was the easy part - a company from my city called "Transfer Multisort Elektronik" or TME is a major worldwide electronics parts dealer, I knew my way around their website, and the shipping costs were as low as 10 euro, so we gave it a go), find a CNC-machining workshop to have the enclosures made (and had some fun with incompatible file formats, designing everything anew...), design and order mechanical parts, buy pneumatic parts, then finally put that together. In the meantime we were restoring the compressed air tank, and John described it in the other thread. Surprisingly, some logistics turned out much harder in the Netherlands than here, where I have a pneumatic parts store and an electronic parts store within a kilometer or so from my museum...
After we built two devices which I call MkI, we had some problems with adjusting the cycle sensor because of the sideways movement of air bar clamp. As the device weighs 1.5 ... 2kg, attaching it to the paper tower by means of a clamp for the connection block sometimes led to it sliding down, cutting the air off... and made it harder to install it. We decided to separate the clamp and sensor from the electronics/pneumatics part. The first ideas were to hang the electronics on ropes (which I found unacceptable - no one knows how high the workplace will be; it may be 2m as well as 4m or more, like in Andreas Schweizer's place or Tipoteca Italiana), then John came up with his own idea of using two prongs out of a steel flat bar to put the thing on the paper tower, and I came up with using two 1" plumbing pipe clamps attached to the takeup spool and a rubber block abuting on the paper tower's back wall to prevent the box from rotating. This would be used in the next iteration, "MkII".
We modified John's MkI device so that it has a disconnectable sensor (in the original design it was integrated). What is more, the new sensor is no longer a visible-light LED and phototransistor in separate holders - it's an integrated IR LED+phototransistor, much smaller and more precise. It's controlled by a metal disc with a slot (rotate it to adjust the "air on" starting/stopping phase), attached to a lever actuated by the original air bar clamp.
Right now I'm finishing the MkII for our museum. The box is bigger (Hammond HM-1550H aluminum enclosure, 222x146mm, actually cheaper than HM-1550Z139...), attaches to the paper tower using the takeup spool, the air connection block is separate (with an integrated machine cycle sensor). I need to buy some LEDs and will get the device ready in a few days.

In the meantime, I'm working on the software... This is a lot harder than the hardware part (pardon my pun). I'm a beginner developer (although with some background in a dev team - software testing, precisely) and the learning curve is steep. To make it easier, I decided to code in Python - very versatile, widespread, with native support for Unicode (I'm Polish, and I know something about different character encodings ;)), multi-paradigm (you want procedural, structural, functional or object-oriented programming, or a mix of those? Python won't stand in your way), with a vast standard library and even more in additional libraries. Easier to learn than C, unless you need to write low-level hardware control routines or work with real-time applications (microsecond precision), where the latter is clearly superior. The more I learn, the easier it gets... I also keep making and correcting mistakes. If I wrote it in C like John did, it would get even more frustrating.
The code is at and the hardware documentation is at
Right now it has a text user interface. You need to connect to the device and enter commands from the keyboard. You don't have to use any terminal software because a program called "shellinabox" runs on the controller's Raspberry and gives you access to its command line via web browser. But command-line interface is a bit unfriendly for non-geeks... so ultimately, it'll be a proper web app.
I make a lot of changes in what I've written to date, because as I learn programming, I keep seeing a better way to do one thing or the other... Without changing the existing codebase, you just add new functions/statements/etc. and after some time the code grows too much without doing more, and becomes hard or impossible to understand and maintain.
I think that if I talked with experienced developers, I could learn tons about doing things better and simpler, about design patterns and anti-patterns, industry standards (I didn't keep to PEP-8 at the beginning), automated unit and acceptance testing etc. Still a long way to go, but very rewarding.

PS. About the perforator:
I came up with the idea of using solenoids to control the keyboard's perforators because mechanical control would be cheaper than pneumatic. After all, the valves were already there, actuated by levers in the keyboard's base...
But after doing some research on compact solenoids (ca. 8x10mm footprint) - it turned out not viable. No one had solenoids cheap enough. And the durability problem may be a thing, so we didn't want to go on with this plan and I'll use the solenoid valves for the perforator.
Since I've got the separate electronics for the thing (my first prototype with some modifications), I'd like it to be a whole different thing than the caster controller, with its own valves.

There's some theory about solenoid valves. Not all of them will work with our project.
The first thing is: what type of valves we have? Some common options are:
2/2 - simple valve, 2 ports, 2 positions: on or off,
3/2 - 3 ports (air supply, output and exhaust), 2 positions: a single output connected either to air supply or exhaust to drop the pressure after turning the valve off
5/2 - 5 ports (air supply, two outputs, two exhausts) and 2 positions: output 1 conected to supply and output 2 connected to exhaust 2, or output 1 connected to exhaust 1 and output 2 connected to supply,
5/3 - 5 ports, 3 positions: two like the 5/2 valve has, plus an additional middle position, where the air flow is blocked or both inputs are vented. These valves are controlled via two separate coils - one for position 1 and the other for position 2. When no coil is actuated, the valve is in the middle position 2.

3/2 is usually used with single-acting pneumatic cylinders (input on one side of the piston - like the air pins on the composition caster; the piston moves forwards when pressure is applied, and returns under external force, when no air is applied).
5/2 or 5/3 are used with double-acting cylinders (with two chambers on both sides of the piston, one air input for forwards motion and the other air input for piston return).
The valves can be normally-closed (with current off, no air flows or the output is connected to exhaust) or normally open (air flows from supply to output when the valve is off).

Because size is less critical here (lots of place inside the box), I can use larger valve islands, like Festo CPV-10 or CPV-14.
They can be had secondhand for a few hundreds of euros and are totally modular. You can get 2, 4, 6 or 8 valve modules of different functions, denoted by letter on the module's face.
There are different baseplates, sideblocks and connection plates (for individual valve controls via a D-SUB connector, or several industry-standard buses, used mostly with PLC controllers). Easy to get confused...
What I need is two valve islands of 8 channels each, populated with "C" valves i.e. double 3/2 valves, with a connection plate for 25-pin D-SUB. And the sideblocks MUST have separate pilot and main ports, since the keyboard operates at 1bar (15psi), and these valves need min. 2bar pressure on the pilot input to open.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." --Arthur C. Clarke
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." --John Keats
Founder and owner of Keritech Electronics

Keri Szafir

Some pics of the production MkII model at the Book Art Museum:

I have an idea for improving the air connection block, so that all tubes are connected on the bottom side. The block could be made of aluminum with screw-in tubes.
The original block from Tjitze Mast had 4mm O.D. brass tubes, but it was a bit too large to put on the 2.5mm I.D. plastic hose; I decided to cut off the brass tubes, drill the holes and solder 31 pieces of thinner copper tube (3mm O.D.) in. Unfortunately, I drilled too far, making leakages between adjacent tubes - but after filling the spaces with epoxy resin, everything works great.

Work is going nicely, I'm developing the casting and typesetting software. I'm very happy to show computer-controlled typecasting to any visitors, and they are always impressed :).
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." --Arthur C. Clarke
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." --John Keats
Founder and owner of Keritech Electronics

Keri Szafir

Who would have thought that I'd make old and new tech work together once more...
John's old interface is controlled via antique parallel port. You don't see it on most modern PCs, although there are some exceptions.
Some laptops, like dual-core IBM or Lenovo Thinkpads, still have it - accessible on a docking station. So, why not try to make that work?
Having a docking station and a Thinkpad T61, I decided to try.

The T61 had Linux Mint 17.3 "Rosa" installed on it. It was quite outdated though, and I had some problems with initializing the parallel port. It may be because of the kernel - 3.19.
So, I installed Debian stretch (current testing release) and it worked. I could talk to the parallel port. What is more, the operating system takes care of finding the proper port address just fine, and I don't have to do it in my software.

After some reverse-engineering and analysing, I managed to talk to the old John's interface. It didn't cast proper codes the first time, but it's working nicely after some dabbling with code.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." --Arthur C. Clarke
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." --John Keats
Founder and owner of Keritech Electronics


I is anyone intrested in these monotype machines today? I would like to speak to someone regarding Harry Mcintosh work

John Cornelisse

I have no contact any more with Harry McIntosh, Speedspools myself. Has he stopped all ?

a litle search on internet did show the following:

Harry McIntosh
Chepman & Myllar Press
385 QueensferryRoad
Edinburgh EH4 7AG
tel +44(0)131 336 2849
fax +44(0)131 336 5065

Dave Hughes

In recent months Kevin Martin, who is based in Canada, has posted this video of his Monotype caster being controlled by a computer.

This is what Kevin has to say about it:

"This is a Monotype Composition Caster in its first run being controlled by my laptop.

The Composition Caster is a machine used from around the start of the 20th century until the 1960's or 1970's where letterpress printing was almost entirely replaced with offset lithography. It would cast individual letters and set them in lines to form composed text, ready to print, thus avoiding the time-consuming step of hand-setting the individual letters.

This machine was originally conceived to be controlled by a 31-channel punched paper ribbon, which would have been punched on a separate machine known as a Monotype Keyboard. The information on the ribbon selects what character to cast, how wide to cast it, and when the line of type ends.

The software on the laptop controls a pneumatic valve mechanism I made which replaces the ribbon. A file on the laptop provides the information that would have been on the ribbon, and a lever on the valve body detects the movement of the arm that originally controlled the paper ribbon read cycle.

This is the first time ever that this has run, and although the actual computer control is running flawlessly, the casting is going a bit rough. I don't have everything tuned properly, so the lines are coming out in somewhat varying lengths, some of the type is just mis-cast, and a lot of the type has fins attached to what should be sharp corners. As a result the type is a bit jumbled in the output galley, rather than being in neat lines.

Right at the end the caster stopped because it detected that the line was a bit too long. In the long run that breadboard will be converted into a circuit board which will also be attached directly to the valve block."

So, reading between the lines, it would appear that the problems Kevin is experiencing come from the caster's set-up and not from the computer interface.

So, is Kevin using an interface that has previously been discussed here? Has it now been perfected? Or has Kevin come up with another solution to controlling a Monotype caster with a computer?

I have invited Kevin to participate in this discussion.

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Keri Szafir

Not sure what exactly Kevin uses for sending signals; it looks like the thing uses four driver chips like my controller does, but seems to be connected with a computer using a USB interface. Not sure about the software either; looks Welliver but I'm not familiar with that one.

Got a few boards of my design stashed in my lab just in case :D
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." --Arthur C. Clarke
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." --John Keats
Founder and owner of Keritech Electronics


Here I am!

The interface you see in my video has been independently built. I had been thinking about making a custom-built valve body that would go on the caster instead of the paper tower, when I discovered the Matrix valves and an eBay item packed with 18 of them plus driver electronics. Most single solenoid valves are so bulky that they have to be organized into perhaps 5 banks or more with hoses and/or air passages to route the air to the 1/8" spacing required for the air tower.

As the interface stands right now it is intended as a proof-of-concept so I wanted to work with whatever I did not have to buy. Thus the processor is actually a programmable name-badge (with an LPC1343 processor IIRC) from a local Makers' conference from several years ago. The power supply was purchased new but will be used in the finished project. The badge/processor connects to the breadboard which contains the power regulation and the driver chips for the solenoid valves. This is controlled, in turn, through a USB cable from a computer, with the application on the computer being written in Java so (I hope) it can be run on Linux and Macs as well as its current Windows host. The UI for the application closely resembles Bill Welliver's software, and uses the same format of ribbon files as input.

I have started working on a circuit board to replace the rat's nest of wires, but that will require climbing the learning curve on PCB layout (I'm using KiCAD for the circuit design) and also making some decisions about how some parts will be wired in. I will likely want to reassign which pins on the processor chip control which solenoid valves to simplify the PCB layout (remapping these is just a table in the firmware on the processor).

Every now and then I post something about this bumbling around on my blog ( though there is plenty of non-Monotype content there as well.

I'm also trying to organize it all into a Git repository but that takes time as well. I would prefer it to be substantially more complete before publicizing the details.

Dave Hughes

Thanks for joining in the discussion Kevin, I know you're a busy man.

Although I don't own a Monotype I think the development of a reliable, working computer interface is important for the future of large-scale letterpress work.

It would be nice to see people who are working independently towards the same goal have somewhere that they can exchange ideas and collaborate.

I hope that this site can provide that platform.
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Dave Hughes

A more up-to-date video from mac2cast shows MacTronic3 (the video in post #3 was the MacTronic2, c1996; this one is from 2016).

Not the best of videos, it was accompanied with the following text: "NEW! At last, the Mark 3 has arrived! It is available to all interested parties who want a well-tested, reliable, self-contained unit that is customised to their requirements – NO coding, 'rocket science', Internet dependence or DIY!

The 'Windows' environment is used with USB connection and, due to a long experience in computing and typecasting, there are many new features – all rigorously tested and user-friendly! Having abandoned the use of R-Pi/Arduino in favour of a Windows 10 tablet (Linx 1010 tablet is included and ready to go!), all tried and trusted programs can still be used – everything is in the box! If attached to a normal monitor and keyboard, the tablet can be used as a desk-top PC that will give easier viewing to rest of programs – OpenOffice, DiecaseLayout and WinJp.

This is a sorts galley of 10pt Gill Sans Light being cast and showing the stop character on the first (last!) line stopping the caster. A simple text file is used to produce by number of lines or characters of any font, size or measure – these can even be kerned.

Contact Harry McIntosh to discuss your requirements at (NOTE: use hmachot - problems with machot)."

A contemporary web page here: MACTRONIC 3 offers more detail of the system

For over forty years Harry McIntosh has serviced a nucleus of select customers with a fully comprehensive range of typesetting facilities and typefaces to suit all of their requirements. He has recently (2013) sold a large part of his Monotype collection, but has kept back more than enough to retain a strong presence in Monotype hot-metal typesetting – see the list below. Thanks to MacTronic, he can offer this service to everyone. Harry has been using MacTronic to produce punch-tape since 1986, and later, in 1996, direct to caster – no paper tape!

After a great deal of testing and extra features, the long-awaited Mark 3 has now arrived. It is available to all interested parties who want a well-tested, reliable, self-contained unit that is customised to their requirements – NO coding or DIY and certainly no reliance on Internet connection!

OpenOffice (as well as LibreOffice, InDesign, Word, etc.) is used to input text in conjunction with very versatile software and an easy-to-install, clamp-on unit – no paper tape and ready to go without disturbing any caster adjustments! Just think – no more reliance on worn, badly adjusted pneumatic keyboards, justification drums, sticky stopbars and keybars with all their idiosyncrasies; and, of course, no need for expensive, scarce paper tape and re-keying – mistakes and revised specifications are easily rectified with a few keystrokes. The 'Windows' environment is used with USB connection and, due to a long experience in computing and typecasting, there are many new features – all rigorously tested! Having abandoned the use of R-Pi/Arduino in favour of a Windows 10 tablet (Linx 1010 tablet is included and ready to go!), all tried and trusted programs can still be used – everything (including software) is in the box! If attached to a normal monitor and keyboard, the tablet can be used as a desk-top PC that will give easier viewing to rest of programs – OpenOffice, DiecaseLayout and WinJp.

This  development allows word-processor disks, data files, e-mails, or copy that can be either scanned or keyboarded into a computer to be converted into Monotype hot-metal or 31-channel punched tape. OpenOffice (as well as LibreOffice, InDesign, Word, etc.), is now used to control text input. This means complete control of accuracy, word spacing, hyphenation, line breaks, page breaks, etc. – you get what you see on your own screens!


The MacTronic system comprises of a text output from OpenOffice (as well as LibreOffice, Indesign, Word, etc.). Special hot-metal fonts are used to control line-endings, hyphenation, etc. When a satisfactory result has been achieved, a PDF file is generated to give a hot-metal facsimile. This PDF can be sent to customer for checking, and any last-minute alterations can be done before commitment to caster. After any corrections, the file is processed through a Justification Program (including diecase) to produce a final hot-metal file with complete control of galley length by line/page and auto-generated galley lines with stop quads. This is sent to caster, through Cast Driver Program and Interface, to create perfectly justified galleys of type.

An extensive selection of classical Monotype typefaces have been retained for the use of the discerning publisher, press or design studio - see the list below. Traditional skills and quality control are used throughout all services. For further information regarding spool setting, typesetting, digital setting, or even letterpress printing, please contact us.

Typefaces available

Baskerville (169) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14pt
Bembo (270) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13pt
Bodoni (135) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 11D, 12, 13pt
Bulmer (469) - 11, 12pt
Caslon (128) - 10, 11, 12pt
Garamond (156) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Gill Sans (262) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14pt
Gill Sans Light (362) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Grotesque Light (126) - 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13pt
Grotesque (215) - 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13pt
Helvetica (765) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 12D
Imprint (101) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 11D, 12pt
Modern (1) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Modern (7) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Octavian (603) - 14pt
Old Style (2) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Old Style (151) - 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Perpetua (239) - 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14pt
Plantin (110) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14pt
Plantin Light (113) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Rockwell Light (390) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 12pt
Rockwell Medium (371) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 12pt
Sabon (669) - 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12D
Scotch Roman (46) - 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Scotch Roman (137) - 8, 9, 10, 11, 12pt
Times (327) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14pt
Univers Light (685) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12D
Univers Medium (689) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12D
Univers Bold (693/696) - 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12D

as well as Cyrillic, Greek and even Hebrew and 4-Line Maths! - and, of course, Sorts and Ornaments up to 14pt, Spoolsetting and MacTronic. I no longer have the facilities to cast display type or lead and rule.

Technical details

MacTronic uses OpenOffice (as well as LibreOffice, Indesign, Word, etc.) with all their text functions to produce hot-metal text that is justified, ragged left, right or centred on any Monotype composition caster. This means instant on-screen text recognition – no coding!

Any layout can be used (16×17, 15×17, and 15×15). Any set size; measure up to 60 ems; unit-adding, letterspacing, unit-shift; automatic high space when character in layout requires it; auto-generated ligatures; when word space in line is over wedge limits, extra spaces are auto-generated until within limits (usually in very narrow measures).

There are various left, hanging and right indents; also margins for hanging punctuation and short leads. The tables of the wordprocessors have been utilised to produce hot-metal tables automatically.

Galley line/page length control with galley lines auto-generated with stop quad and blank line through any length of file – usually per chapter.

Due to the limitations of matrix-case layouts, punctuation, etc. can be shared between fonts or changed to deliberate wrong characters for hand alteration. Accents, pi-characters, etc. are only limited by the capacity of the matrix-case. Any layout can be generated, and, if the caster has the unit-shift facility, even 15×15 and 15×17 layouts can be unit-shifted.

A 'wrong' normal wedge can be substituted to produce the same results as a correct wedge, utilising unit-adding and unit-shift (if available) or single justifying to obtain the correct character width.

This facility can be used to kern characters – plus 1-9 units, minus 1-2 units (depending on type size).

By using a simple text file, a sorts galley can be produced by number of lines or characters of any font, size or measure – these can even be kerned.

The latest capability is to mix italic, Greek, etc. from different diecases – not only of the same set, but different sizes within the limits of the wedges. This is very useful in large composition where there is only one font per diecase, or where a different size or language such as Greek, Fraktur, etc. is required throughout the text.

Due to the ease of creating PDFs, these 'proofs' can show customers how a job will look in hot-metal and enables any changes to be made before commitment to casting.

It would seem that Harry is no longer in business, was the MacTronic3 the answer to automating the Monotype caster? Is the technology still available?
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Sadly Harry had a stroke a couple of years ago and is no longer casting. I managed to rescue the contents of his workshop and am still sifting through and cataloguing the collection of mats et al.

There were no additional interfaces made, although I do have the one shown in the video above attached to the caster it came with. At some point I intend to produce an interface myself but since the USB interface chip Harry used is now no longer manufactured, I will have to find some currently supported means to do that.

Harry was very protective about his system and although I managed to get some details about it and the software, his wife Diana had the whole of the contents of his office put into a skip whilst he was in hospital with Covid, so there is no more documentation currently available.

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