March 6, 2001
The sbit hits the fan.
Building fonts for dead computing platforms.
That’s what I think I should dedicate more of my waking hours to. And to start it off this evening, I installed Apple’s Newton Toolkit (NTK). Along with a plethora of standard programming environment goodliness, NTK allows you to take existing Mac OS bitmap typefaces and turn them into fonts for use on the Newton. Not that it’s a single step, point-and-click process. Oh no, it’s much more fun than that. Here is a brief description of what’s going on behind the scenes, taken from the Newton Font Specifications documentation:
“Newton fonts are based on the TrueType font technology. It is important to understand that TrueType is not just outline fonts, but an entire scalable font architecture. It is possible to use many aspects of TrueType’s font technology, without having to use actual outline fonts. Because the existing Newton software does not actually support outline fonts, we use a new extension to TrueType known generally as
sbit. This is a set of tables which have been defined as segments of a TrueType font. These tables allow bitmap data to be included in a TrueType font. The original design goal for
sbitfonts was to allow small hand-tuned point sizes to be included along with an outline font. For Newton, we have gone a step further and completely removed the outline data. Fonts built for Newton contain only bitmap data.”
Actually, it sounds way more daunting than it really is. You start by extracting out a specific weight (or weights) of bitmap information from an existing font suitcase using a utility aptly named the Newton Font Tool, and then you run the resulting file through the NTK, compiling it into an installable font package for the Newton. So, what does this mean for you? Practically nothing. In fact, I would be immensely surprised if you’re still reading this. For me, it means that I now have Newton-compatible versions of my own typeface designs like Schmutz and East Bloc. And there’s something very cool about that.
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