Punch cards & Poster

The 026 could print the punched character above each column. There were two popular versions with slightly different character sets. The scientific version printed parentheses, equal sign and plus sign in place of four less frequently used characters in the commercial character set: percent, lozenge, pound, and ampersand. The character was printed using a 5×7 dot matrix array of wires; the device from which it derived the shape of the character was a metal plate, called the “code plate,” with space for 1960 pins (35 pins times 56 printable characters). If the dot was not to be printed in a given character, the pin was machined off. By correctly positioning the plate and pressing it against one end of the array of printing wires, only the correct wires were pressed against the ribbon and then the punched card.

As an ode, if you will, to this method of printing type, I replicated each letter from the IBM 026/029 cards and set the type with the same kerning ratios. This typeface is a perfect example of form follows function.

To illustrate this, I used an old poem ‘The Last Bug’, (author unknown) which dates back to at least the 1970’s, and references the use of these cards; ‘nine edge first’ refers to how punch cards were fed into card readers (the 9 edge was the bottom of the card).

The type is indented to mirror the format of programming code written in compiler software.

I have screen printed this with silver ink onto sheets of near A1 Heritage White 100gsm (intended to be folded). Next I am going to laser cut each poster with the positions of the holes in 28 cards (28 for 28 lines of the poem). It will all make sense when finished!

I would definitely like to research more into the ‘typesetting’ of programming code as I find the organisation of it quite interesting – and also bringing this into printed matter as it only ever exists on the computer screen or in notebooks. This of course is because printed information is precisely that – information to be read and made sense by humans. There is no need to print information read by a computer. The way high level language code is entered into compilers follows a similar (in terms of a strict organisation) system as printed text for visual organising the sections of the program, although it isn’t practically necessary for execution (to my knowledge).

Interesting article on programming fonts –


(Will add more on this post.. I seem to say that for all posts now ha)


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