A master type specimen / character sheet (in poster format) designed by Rolf Harder for a revolutionary new digital switching machine, developed and manufactured by Northern Telecom (later to become Nortel).
In 1976, Northern Electric renamed to Northern Telecom, and with this, the company focused its attentions on the groundbreaking development of a fully digital local central office. In 1977 they released their first DMS (Digital Multiplex Switch) line of switching equipment with the DMS-10 digital central office switch for small communities. The DMS-10 became the first ever local central office (Class 5) digital switch to be installed in the public switched telephone network.
This impeccably preserved artefact is in fact a bromide (produced by photomechanical transfer) and was developed to illustrate ‘letter spacing’, presumably supplied to Northern Telecom for application onto their machines and communications. The character set comprises of a full set of upper, lower and numeral Latin glyphs, and a limited range of punctuation and marks. The letterforms were all crafted on a grid, using squares, rectangles and quarter round quadrants only (except for a few instances of diagonals used on punctuation and accents). This meticulous attention to detail, much like Wim Crouwel’s efforts 10 years before, not only give the characters a modular and systematic feel, but also connect strongly to that early digital aesthetic, despite the fact that ‘Postscript fonts’ for computers would not make an appearance for another 10 years.
Obtained from Rolf Harder’s own personal archive.