What printed this Certification?
December 10, 2009 12:50 PM   Subscribe

What sort of machine printed this Certification of Birth Abroad? The letters are broken up and stencil-ish, but it's no ordinary dot-matrix printer.

I have here a Certification of Birth Abroad of a US citizen, printed at the US embassy in Lima, Peru, in 1978, and it's blowing my mind because I've never seen printing like this before and I don't know what kind of machine produced it. The form itself is pre-printed, but the personal information filling in the blanks is the weird stuff.

The font is all caps, and the characters are broken up into individual lines and shapes. The letter H looks something like this:

| |
| |

and a Y looks something like this:

\ /

Other letters and numbers contain curved lines, and an O is sort of like this:

( )

only not nearly as disjointed.

Identifont is no help. Do you have any ideas? I'll be happy to answer any other questions about the type.
posted by Faint of Butt to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A picture might help.
posted by number9dream at 12:57 PM on December 10, 2009

Does it resemble a 7-segment LCD (like this)? I've seen output like that before, but can't place it.
posted by djb at 1:11 PM on December 10, 2009

No, it's not like the LCD. The letter "parts" couldn't all fit into one space without overlapping, and some numerals (3, 9, 7) descend below the bottom line.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:15 PM on December 10, 2009

I remember a printer in the 80s that worked like this - it had movable segments in the print head. I think it was made by Ibico. Very cheap, not dot-addressable, simple character set.
posted by scruss at 1:33 PM on December 10, 2009

Could it be a comb printer, the halfbreed between a line printer and a dot-matrix printer?
posted by nomisxid at 1:39 PM on December 10, 2009

For what little it's worth, I've got the same document with I believe the same font, issued by a U.S. consulate in a different hemisphere earlier in the same decade.

It's been a year or two since I've looked at it, but to my recollection it looks like impact printing. I'm guessing the U.S. consulates/embassies were issued special typewriters or printers with this particular daisy wheel or typeball.

It is definitely an odd looking font. Maybe I can get some macro photos of the font in question.
posted by exogenous at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2009

I'd love to see it, exogenous. We'll get to the bottom of this yet.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:48 PM on December 10, 2009

OK, here are some closeups of the font on mine: 1, 2.

Oddly enough, the rest of the printing on the certificate is in a normal typewriter font. It's an FS-545 form.
posted by exogenous at 6:28 PM on December 10, 2009

Looks a lot like a few of the roneograph / mimeograph stencil fonts I've seen on line or golfball printers. The little gaps are designed to stop the tabs inside the letters floating off the (plastic or waxed paper) stencil when printing.

A couple of (Siemens, IIRC) line printers I've seen used a compound of /\)(-| shapes to build up the characters by stepping ½ a line for each pass, but they're usually identifiable by slight positioning errors & larger gaps between the lines. At a guess, I'd say yours is from a golfball-type stencil cutter used with a normal ribbon.
posted by Pinback at 7:41 PM on December 10, 2009

That's it, exogenous, that's exactly it. Thank you. Now what kind of machine made it?
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:15 AM on December 11, 2009

There seems to be a slight shading inside the individual characters (most noticably the Os and Ss, but visible elsewhere). That implies (to me, at least) that the letters aren't actually built of the smaller lines, but are discreet units, like on a type ball.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:03 PM on December 11, 2009

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