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Making an MSX font | Hacker News

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Tags: font msx font-authoring
Clipped on: 2016-12-14

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Making an MSX font (
95 points by bane 9 hours ago | unvote | flag | hide | past | web | 16 comments | favorite

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> I'm not sure either what's the character between INFINITY (∞) and ELEMENT OF (∈). I checked an old MSX Technical Data Book and it seems to be lowercase phi (φ), but it certainly doesn't look like it.

The last three letters in the Danish and Norwegian alphabets are Æ, Ø, and Å. Given that both the lower and upper case version of 'æ' and 'å' are included in the MSX font, it would make sense that they would also include the 'ø' symbol which the resulting font is currently missing. Given the limited number of pixels it would also make sense that the same graphic is used for both the lower and upper case version of this symbol.

Size does matter:

Since this appears to br in the "math symbols" section, it's probably the symbol for the empty set:

I am perhaps about to make an ass of myself, but i have the impression that ö and ø can be interchanged in a pinch.

In a pinch, maybe (see bottom paragraph for a better alternative), but ö is Swedish and German. It's "the same letter" but at the same time it is not.

In Sweden, the modern alphabet ends with "å, ä, ö". In Norway and Denmark the modern alphabet ends with "æ, ø, å".

Although the order is different, å is the same in both Swedish and Norwegian and Danish, and ä is "equal to" æ, and ö is "equal to" ø.

I've seen some people aged 60+ use ö in their handwriting in Norway.

I was born in Sweden and am a Swedish citizen but have been living in Norway since I was four years old. (Swedish father, Norwegian mother.) My last name contains and ö in it, but to the Norwegian authorities and everyone else here, my name is written with an ø. I always write my name with an ø, because that's what I'm used to and that what everybody else is used to, except when I'm in Sweden, then I use ö.

Aside from my last name, I would never interchange ä with æ or ö with ø, because doing so either for a Norwegian word using Swedish letters or for a Swedish word using Norwegian letters would simply look absurd to me. In fact I think even some people might find it offensive to do so. The "å, ä, ö" and the "æ, ø, å" are part of the Swedish and Norwegian peoples identities.

If you need to type words that have these letters in them but you don't have the letters accessible on the computer you are using, it's much better to perform Anglicization IMO. Type å as aa, ä/æ as ae and ö/ø as oe".

There are two great blog-posts covering the typography in 8- and 16-bit systems (Commodore, Apple, Atari, Amiga, IBM, etc.):

It looks like the MSX font is very closely based on the original IBM PC font (these days known as CP437), so for the characters that are ambiguous in 8x8 I recommend checking out the 8x14 versions from the PC.

> I wasn't sure whether some letters are upper or lower case, like pi (π), or theta (θ)

Wikipedia says "227 (E3hex) is the Greek lowercase pi (U+03C0, π), but early fonts such as Terminal use a variant of pi that is ambiguous in case, and therefore can be used for the Greek capital pi (U+03A0, Π) or the n-ary product sign (U+220F, ∏)."

> I'm not sure either what's the character between INFINITY (∞) and ELEMENT OF (∈). I checked an old MSX Technical Data Book and it seems to be lowercase phi (φ), but it certainly doesn't look like it.

Wikipedia says: "237 (EDhex) is supposed to be used as Greek lowercase phi, but is mainly used as the empty set sign (U+2205, ∅) and was also used as the Greek phi symbol in italics (U+03D5, ϕ) to name angles, diameter sign (U+2300, ⌀), and as a surrogate for the Latin lowercase O with stroke (U+00F8, ø)."

The joys of low-res, approximate typefaces - glyphs so weird and obscure you can use them for just about anything.

(aww... the old days when you had keys to move the cursor diagonally... )

I remember playing with fonts to generate sprites and psychedelic screen savers, IIRC fonts were stored around the 16k byte of RAM

Finally a font I like ;) MSX is my first computer love; good to see people make time to do this. Nice work!

You'll probably like the X Fixed fonts too:

I haven't used an MSX before but the font really reminds me of fixed6x13, which is the one used in the screenshot in the above link. I've modified mine with a slashed zero, which makes the resemblance even closer.

Mine too! Philips VG8020 -

I had that one first :) But my real love is the NMS-8250[0] ; I really liked that, to the extend that I have over 25 of them now for my museum.

I'm pretty sure it was on the market in '86 instead of '87 though.


I always wanted to have that one, finally I got a Canon V20 for Xmas.

I started this with "oh but why wasn't he reading it from the graphic memory!" But I see the objective was different

Very cool

(You could also manipulate the fonts in the original MSX to allow things like inverted text, for example)

The MSX font layout actually looks a heck of a lot like CP437 to me. I wonder why iconv couldn't recognize it.

If I understood correctly, the characters corresponding to the first row of CP437 are actually 2-byte sequences (01 xx) on MSX, and the prefixed values as individual bytes are shifted down a row to correspond to the uppercase alphabet rather than being values 0-31, so iconv would have to know about the prefix to not mix those up. The resemblance to CP437 probably isn't a coincidence, though. Microsoft was heavily involved in MSX, so it was undoubtedly indirectly influenced by IBM PC.


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