Video: First run of Monotype Compostion Caster Computer Control

I just posted a video on YouTube of the first run of my Monotype Composition Caster under control of my laptop computer.

I have been working on the hardware and software for this interface on and off over several years, and this is the first time it has had all the features required to properly operate the caster. The last thing to be added was the cycle sensor, which detects the time when the caster would normally have been reading the punched paper ribbon that this interface supersedes.

The interface operated flawlessly, though in subsequent runs (including on a live Zoom demo for the virtual American Typecasting Fellowship conference) it has had some electrical problems. It turns out that when the air compressor kicks in, some electrical noise often causes the communications to the interface to freeze, and the computer can no longer read the status from the interface. On reviewing the software on the laptop I see that reading the status from the interface is done with no timeout. Oops, my bad!

You can also see clearly in the video that the casting part is not tuned properly, as the type is being produced with fins instead of sharp corners, some type has no face on it, and the line length is drifting a lot so the type gets jumbled. This is in addition to the fact that I don’t have the matrix case to match the file I’m reading on the laptop, so the output, had it been fit to print, would still have been a sort of substitution cipher of the correct text.

I have also been adding some features to the software on the laptop to make it easier to skip from one casting line to the next or previous, or back to the start of the file, or to make it loop on a single line of type or loop the entire file. By the way, the application on the laptop is written in Java.

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