Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 3, NO. 11 / MARCH 1985


Design your own character sets

Design custom font sets for downloading to your Epson FX-80 or Gemini 10X printer.  Once the new fonts are installed in the printer, your Atari can be turned off without losing this new character set.  You can then re-boot any word processor or printer program, for printing out in your newly designed font.  Font Maker works on all Atari computers, but requires 48K, a disk drive, BASIC, and a joystick.

The  widely-used Gemini 10X and Epson FX-80 printers are equipped with their own area of RAM in which a special character set, or font, may be installed or downloaded.  Once this new set is installed, the printer will use it as long as its power remains on.  You can turn off the computer and boot up Letter Perfect, AtariWriter, or any other text-handling program and print your text in whatever font you've designed.
  What's usually involved here is the laborious task of designing each character, pin by pin, bit by bit, and then-after transmitting the proper set-up codes-sending all the data for each character to the printer.  If you've ever tried to follow the process described in your printer manual, you probably gave up before very long.
  Font Maker is a combination of character set editor and printer loader which should simplify both tasks.  The program can be used to design a set which is then saved to disk.  The resulting disk file can later be recalled by Font Maker and downloaded again to the printer.
  Don't confuse Font Maker with Matthew Ratcliff's "Custom Font" program in this same issue.  The character sets used in each program are different, and Font Maker cannot use a character set file created by such editors as Instedit.  Font Maker's set is based upon a redefinition of the 9 x 7 grid of pin hammers on the printer head and the resulting file is quite different.

Type in listing 1. Check it with TYPO II and SAVE it to disk.  If you have an Epson printer, you must also type in listing 2.  LIST it to disk by typing LIST "D:FILENAME".  LOAD listing 1 then ENTER listing 2 and, finally, SAVE the merged program to disk.  This is the program you will use.  Epson owners should also turn DIP switch 1-4 to the off position (See your manual).  This will turn off your 2K buffer and allow it to be used for the new character set.

When you RUN Font Maker, a screen of brief instructions will appear.  Press any key to get to the editor screen.
  The character set on the lower part of the screen shows the printer characters available for editing.  Use the joystick controller to move the cursor to the character that you wish to edit.  Press the joystick button and the cursor will appear in the dot matrix box in the upper left corner of the screen.  The character in the lower set becomes inverse to indicate that it is being edited.
  The joystick now controls a cursor in the dot matrix box.  The box is empty until you start editing.  Press the button to place a dot or remove a dot.  Horizontal rows of dots must have a space between each dot, but vertical columns don't need spacing.
  See Figure 1 for an example of the letters in the word Antic as redefined for a special set which is included on the Antic subscriber's disk as DECOGEM.FNT for Geminis and DECOEPS.FNT for Epsons.  Before attempting to create an entire set, practice by redefining just these letters.
  When you have completed your new dot pattern press [E].  The code for the new character will be stored in memory, and a representation of the edited character will appear at the bottom of the screen.  The cursor now returns to the character set to select the next character for editing.  Should you decide to re-edit any of the characters from the bottom set, their pattern will first be transferred to the matrix box.
  You do not need to redefine all the characters.  At any time during the editing process, you may press [START] to download your font to the printer.  This takes some minutes, so be patient.  Turn up the volume on your TV and you can hear the data being transmitted.  Upon completion, you will be given the option of printing the entire set to the printer.  Whichever you choose, you can now boot any program and, as long as printer power remains on, all printouts will be done in the new font.
Figure 1

The following commands may be executed at any time:
  [S] saves the font to a disk after prompting you for a file name.
  [L] loads a font from disk after prompting you for a file name. if you're an Antic disk subscriber, you can load the DECO font as described above.
  [D] toggles the descender mode on and off.  If you wish to edit a character such as a "g" or "j", turn this on and the character will be printed two dots lower than normal.
  Use up to 8 characters for the file name and be sure and use the extender FNT because the directory routine will only show those files.   If you wish to use a different extender, alter line 2020 accordingly.

James Duffin, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Anaesthesia and Physiology at the University of Toronto, Canada.  He's been programming for three years on an Atari 400, which bas been customized with 48K and a keyboard.

Program Listings:

CONVERT.LST Download / View