I don’t mind moving with the times. I really don’t. I wouldn’t be a copywriter in the Outer Hebrides if I did. But sometimes I don’t like it when I am forced to move with the times at the expense of the past.
Take the farce we have been playing out this afternoon with regard to sourcing a font. Part of my artistic income is generated through hand-painted signs, and recently, when I had my old computer, I used the Olde English font for a sign saying Writer in Residence. Normally, I freestyle sign lettering, but for something as precise and complex as Olde English, I key in the words on my computer, blow them up to an appreciable size, print them off, and trace them onto the wood. And that’s a nice analogy for old things working in tandem with the new.
Having received a commission for a sign saying Weaver in Residence, specifically in the Olde English font, I tried today to repeat the usual process with my new computer, only to discover that in all the great long list of available fonts on my new, thoroughly modern, up-to-the-minute system, Olde English was not included.
I was amazed. Olde English font has been around for about a thousand years, before anyone even thought of the word font. It was every monk’s lettering of choice for Latin bibles and theological and historical works before the English language was even invented. Has Microsoft decided that it is far too old and boring to be included in a credible compendium of fonts on its too-flashy-to-be-any-good-to-anybody new Windows 8? Olde English goes beyond being old. It’s a classic! And I need it!
My old computer is down in my husband’s fly-tying shed, still working but not connected to a printer. So my husband went down there with the pen stick. I was already paranoid that the new computer knew what I was up to, colluding with the old model, and might conspire against me. Why wouldn’t it? It’s done it before. And it’s probably remembered that I out-smarted it, too.
Mike got the words on screen in the right font, saved it to the stick, trekked back up the hill, loaded it into the new computer and left me to print it off. What came out of the printer was definitely not Olde English, but a boring typeface bearing no resemblance to what was on the screen. What was this? Has my new computer got a personal grudge against Olde English font? Or is it me? While I gawked with impotent fury at the screen, my new computer stared stonily back. “Well, I don’t like that font. So there.”
I wasn’t giving up. I have my customer service standards to think of. I went down the hill, scheming. “I’ll save it as a PDF!” I thought, with dastardly cunning. “That’ll fox it!” This was getting personal.
I went through the whole thing, saved it as a PDF, back up the hill, yada yada yada, sent to print. PDF files can’t be changed, right? The printer has to print what it sees.
Nooo. At the moment the printer sucked paper into the feed, the computer leaned across and whispered spitefully, “You can’t print that boring Olde English font because I refuse to recognise it. It’s out of fashion, nobody wants it anymore. If you print it, I’ll never speak to you again and then she’ll think you’re not working properly and throw you out on the scrapheap.”
The printer, frightened of the blackmailing computer, did as it was told and printed the words in the same boring font it had tried to fob me off with previously. And then, to rub it in, it ran out of ink. I could practically see the upright finger.
We tried to email it and get it in a zone where we could work without the computer knowing. That didn’t work either.
So maybe there’s another lateral thinking mode I haven’t thought of yet, or some sort of software bribe which would induce my stubbornly modern printer to shed its prejudice and think old. The point of fascination is that if I, with my simple human eyes, can see the Olde English font, plain as day, on the screen, why can’t the computer, with its gazillion connections to the outside world, apps and progs coming out of its whatsits and 100-odd fonts, many of which have been lovingly passed on to Windows 8? Why can’t it just do as it’s told? Why can't it do its modern techno thing so I can do my old-fashioned artist thing?
Next, I tried to find an Olde English font I could download. The only one I’ve found so far is a free font which costs $20. Er…. Well, I definitely don’t see why I should pay for something that used to come as part of the service. And besides, there’s a point of principle at stake, and a sign to paint. I will have that font on my new computer at my beck and call, one way or another. It’s my mission to find out how to achieve that.
How does one become a nerd?