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IBM Selectric Composer

ibmcomposerThe IBM "Selectric" Composer was the first desktop typesetting machine. It was based on the successful "Selectric" technology. The IBM Selectric typewriter is the one that has a small ball with all the letters imprinted on it.

The basic task of the IBM Composer was to produce justified camera ready copy using proportional fonts. It has the capability of using a variety of font sizes and styles.

The first IBM Composer was the IBM "Selectric" Composer announced in 1966. It was a hybrid "Selectric" typewriter that was modified to have proportional spaced fonts. It is 100% mechanical and has no digital electronics. Since it has no memory, the user was required to type everything twice. While typing the text the first time, the machine would measure the length of the line and count the number of spaces. When the user finished typing a line of text, they would record special measurements into the right margin of the paper. Once the entire column of text was typed and measured, it would then be retyped, however before typing each line, the operator would set the special justification dial (on the right side) to the proper settings, then type the line. The machine would automatically insert the appropriate amount of space between words so that all of the text would be justified.

Justification

Justification means typing copy so that the right margin is straight.

Unjustified Copy

The ability to justify copy easily and quickly is one of the distinct advantages of the new IBM "Selectric" Composer. By merely typing copy once, taking a reading from a scale on the Justification Tube, then setting the Justification Dial, copy is automatical-ly aligned at the right margin as it is typed a second time. Color coding is used to des-ignate

Justified Copy

The ability to justify copy easily and quickly is one of the distinct advantages of the new IBM "Selectric" Composer. By merely typing copy once, taking a reading from a scale on the Justification Tube, then setting the Justification Dial, copy is automatical-ly aligned at the right margin as it is typed a second time. Color coding is used to des-ignate


To tell the machine that you want to justify, first pull down the justification lever on the right side of the Justification Dial to put the machine into a "justification mode." This causes the Justification Tube (shown later) to measure each line as you type.  The Justification Lever slides down from the upper right to the lower right of the dial. In the following picture, the Composer is in the "Justify" mode -- the lever is in the pulled-down location around the "9".

Composer justification dial

Next, you would type the first line of the text to be justified. Since the machine is now in the measure mode, the Composer will measure the length of the line and count spaces while you type. The justification tube has a small window with a color guide and ruler. As you type, the color bands change in length. When you approach the right margin and have finished typing the last characters on the line, you will note the left-most color and the number that its' right-most edge is touching.

In the following example, the upper measurement is "blue-5", the next one is "orange-8" and the last one is "green-4".

At this point, the type element (the ball) is positioned at the end of the line. You can now tab past the margin and type the color-number combination for later reference.

The following example shows how the copy may look during the first typing phase. Note the color-number references in the right margin. They can be read as: orange-1, blue-2, orange-2, and green-1.

Now that the copy has been measured, it must be retyped, however this time, before typing each line, the Justification Dial will be set to the measurements.

First, the justification lever is released. Then the recorded color-number must be set on the justification dial before typing each line.  The inner dial (raised area with a white line) is set to the color, and the outer dial is positioned so that the desired number is at the top of the dial. In the following picture, the measurement lever is in the up position, and the dial has been set to "Orange-5":

If you were to justify the text shown earlier in this section, you would first set the dial to "Orange-1", then type the first line. Then you would set the dial to "Blue-2", and then type the second line. As each line is typed, the Composer automatically inserts the correct amount of space between each word that will cause the text to be justified.