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RE: Origin of Verdana

From: Bill Hill <billhill@microsoft.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 17:10:49 -0800
Message-ID: <C35556591D34D111BB5600805F1961B904867EE7@red-msg-47.dns.microsoft.com>
To: "'Walter Ian Kaye'" <walter@natural-innovations.com>, www-font@w3.org
The Macintosh's nominal resolution has remained unchanged since it was
launched in 1984. There were good reasons at that time for picking 72dpi,
since 1 pixel = 1 point. If you were concerned about print publishing - and
of course the Mac was very focused on that from early on - then this
resolution made good sense.

I remember when I worked for Aldus in Europe (Nov 86-Oct94), and I saw the
first version of PageMaker running on a PC. With a Hercules graphics card
(non-square pixels) it looked horrible. I was appalled when I compared it to
my beloved Macintosh.

Since then, though, PC baseline resolution has improved by leaps and bounds.
96dpi is pretty much the "lowest common denominator" resolution we have
today on Windows machines. Don't ask me "Why 96?" - but it's better than 72.

I find it really strange, when the Macintosh has such a share of the
graphics and multimedia markets, that its baseline resolution has never
changed in 14 years. What else in the computer industry is the same as it
was 14 years ago? Laser printer resolution went from 300dpi to 600dpi and
now 1200dpi in the same period. 

The more pixels you have, the better job you can do when displaying type on
the screen. As you go down in resolution, and also drop the size of your
type, you get to a certain point where there just aren't enough pixels to do
the job.

Another memory I have of my time at Aldus is of launching Windows 3.1 for
the first time, and calling in my boss to show him how crisp and clear the
type was on screen. That was the point at which I felt Windows overtook the
Macintosh in type quality on screen. At that time I had no connection with
Microsoft at all - but the type was great enough to make me sit up and take
note from 7000 miles away in Edinburgh. (Makes me proud to now be running
the MS group that did that, by the way).

At Microsoft, we're going to take advantage of resolution wherever we can in
order to display type at its best for our customers. I find 9pt on the
screen just too small for me to read comfortably, even on Windows. On our
Microsoft Typography Website, we try to use sizes that will work on whatever
system they're viewed. We're aware of the issues. But until the Macintosh
resolution changes, small type is always going to look better on Windows
than the Macintosh at the same size because of the scaling problem you

I guess the only solution today is that site designers need to take into
account how their site will display in a cross-platform environment and
specify type accordingly. You get less on the screen, but at least it's
readable. A lot of designers who put their sites together on Windows
probably aren't even aware there's a problem!

As a user, of course you have the option of increasing the default font size
in the browser. Doesn't help, though, if it breaks the carefully-planned

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Walter Ian Kaye [SMTP:walter@natural-innovations.com]
> Sent:	Wednesday, February 25, 1998 2:16 PM
> To:	www-font@w3.org
> Subject:	Re: Origin of Verdana
> At 12:09p -0800 02/25/98, Bill Hill wrote:
> >For Verdana (and also Georgia, the serif family), Matthew started by
> >developing a set of bitmaps at the most important screen sizes. These
> were
> >then used to draw the outlines, which were then hinted so they generated
> >those exact bitmaps, but were also scalable.
> >Now, when it comes to designing characters for the screen, especially for
> >the small sizes typically used for block text, there are a very limited
> >number of pixels with which to play
> What about the factor of "nominal" screen resolution? A 13" monitor at a
> resolution of 640x480 has about 72 pixels per inch -- this is the nominal
> "dpi" (ppi?) for MacOS. For some reason, Microsoft puts PCs at 96dpi (why
> I don't know -- Pythagorean law should hold true for any platform), with
> the result that Arial 9 for Windows has the same number of pixels as
> Arial 12 for MacOS. I've seen Arial 9 on many MS/Windows web pages, which
> becomes quite illegible (~6.75pt) on the Mac. What is the solution?
Received on Wednesday, 25 February 1998 20:11:33 UTC

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