"The dark horse of the keyboard, the ampersand exists to join things together, yet remains set apart. Whilst everyone can read and understand the ampersand, or the & symbol, how many of us know where it came from?
Alistair Sooke traces the history of the funny little character that has quietly given joy to so many, from a bored medieval scribe right the way through to a modern day digital font designer. Delighting type designers throughout the centuries as a chance within a font to create a small piece of art, it is a joyful moment in a functional resource. Speaking to Ampersfans Alastair enters into a world of letterpress, punchcutting and typography and discovers how the ampersand can be found at every step of the way, bringing a joyful flick of a tail to the dullest document.
If you thought the ampersand was a bright young thing in the world of type, you couldn't be more wrong; first credited to Marcus Tiro around 63 BC, combing the letters e and t from the Latin word 'et'. Fighting off competition from his nemesis, the 'Tironian Mark', Alastair then tracks the ampersand to 16th Century Paris where it was modelled in the hands of type designer to the King, Claude Garamond, then back across the sea to William Caslon's now famous interpretation, designed with a joyful array of flourishes and swirls. Alastair will discover how the ampersand became a calling card for many typographers, showcasing some of their best and most creative work.
A simple twist of the pen, the ampersand has managed to captivate its audience since print began, in Ampersfan Alistair tries to pin down this slippery character down once and for all."
(BBC Radio 4 Programmes, 2012)
Alistair Sooke (2012). "Ampers-Fan", Producer: : Jo Meek & Gillian Donovan, A Sparklab Production for BBC Radio 4, Last broadcast on Monday, 16:00 on BBC Radio 4.
"In 1965, Dr. Ing. Rudolf Hell introduced the Digiset typesetting system. It was the first device to produce characters on a CRT entirely from digital masters. By the 1970's phototypesetting was replaced by stored information which was set as a series of small dots or closely spaced vertical lines that appeared solid in the finished product. The output speed was 1,000 to 10,000 characters per second.
DigiGrotesk was the first digital type font and was designed in 1968 by the Hell Design Studio and was available in seven weights from light to bold. Hermann Zapf, Gudrun von Hesse and Gerard Unger were early type designers for this new technology."