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Re: Origin of Verdana

From: Chris Lilley <chris@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 06:29:04 +0100
Message-ID: <34F4FDA0.8309E0D0@w3.org>
To: Bill Hill <billhill@microsoft.com>
CC: "'Walter Ian Kaye'" <walter@natural-innovations.com>, www-font@w3.org
Bill Hill wrote:
> 
> 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 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.

Both hardcoded values are likely to be wrong (like a stopped watch, they
will occasionally be correct).

> 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. 

Well I run mine at 1440x1280 on a 19inch screen (say, 15.8inch
horizontal) which gives me 91 dpi. I rarely see PCs running at much over
1280x1024 and usually on a 20inch screen at that resolution. The problem
is not the resolution the Mac runs at, the problem is that the OS still
claims it is running at 72 dpi. Similarly, I can switch my PC at home
anywhere from 640x480 to 1280x1024 on the same sized 19inch monitor, but
WindowsNT resolutely believes that I am running at 96dpi in all cases.

So basically, neither OS gives reliable data on screen resolution.

> 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.

Sure. And that is why folks run 1600x1200 on 17 inch Radius Pressview
monitors to give 117 dpi - they can see most of a magazine-quality photo
at close to print resolution. You can't read type on such a setup,
though - instead of being high quality, high resolution type, its just
tiny.

> 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.

That is good to hear - others had reported that, contrary to the
recommendations in the CSS1 standard, type was being speced in points
and thus looked too small on Macs (as, conversely, mac designers spec
type in points that is too big on Windows). The problem is twofold -
firstly that points (physical measurements in 1/72inch) are not being
correctly converted to pixel sizes, secondly that the legibility of type
depends greatly on the hinting, the rasterisation method and the amount
and quality of greyscale antialiasing applied. As of course you know;
but the problem is again that these factors cannot be determined
readilly by the stylesheet designer.

> 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
> highlight.

Sorry, but that isn't the issue. It's not a case of waiting for the Mac
to catch up. It's a case of waiting until *both* OSes report back
accurate values for the actual screen resolution. Then we will be part
of the way towards a solution.

> 
> 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. 

bsolutely.

> 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!

And similarly, designers putting their site together on a Mac (or any
other system). The tyranny of WYSIWYG, again, except this time it's
"what I see is what you should see, so your platform is broken because
it's different from mine" which is easier I suppose than "my design
makes unwarranted platform-specific assumptions".

> 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
> design.

A design which breaks if the user increases or decreases resolution a
bit - let alone a lot, for the visually impaired - is by definition not
carefully planned. It might have been carefully planned if the target
output medium was a static paper printout; in a multiresolution,
multiplatform Web world, it's a broken design.

--
Chris
Received on Thursday, 26 February 1998 00:34:52 UTC

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