At the time we were ready with the design of the fonts for the EPSON FX-80 dot matrix printer, we found that we also had to make illustrations for our future related CFP Project. The first question was: black and white or color? In HGR2 we have only 8 colors available. HCOLOR 0 is used for black. HCOLOR 3 for white1. HCOLOR 4 For black2. And HCOLOR 7 for white2. So basically we just have green, violet, orange and blue. This is all very limited. But suppose we assume that we start making illustrations with those four colors and black and white. There are no color printers. The first successful color printout occurred in 1977. Color printers were usually resigned to print shops and color copies were costly to buy. Only by the late 1980’s, color printers were more consumer-friendly in both their cost and technology. So we went to our EPSON FX-80 to use it for printing. And indeed in 1 color. Black!
Another point: how do you get the illustrations in the computer? We could only draw lines and rectangles. A circle maybe? It was now clear that we would print everything in black and white. But what was the subject of the illustrations. Subjects we had enough. All of which were related to our futuristic project. We could make photos of the subjects we discussed. But then what? Scan? Rudolph Hell, (born 1901 and died 2002) invented the first scanner in Germany in 1963. The scanner enabled him to get color images into a computer-system. So technically it could be done. Financial it couldn’t. Scanners that we could afford did not exist. But what we could do is position pixels. That gave us the following method of working.
The idea was to make illustrations for each of the 16 subjects. We started looking for existing material that we found in the weekly magazines and books. Typically, these where color images. We had to find a way to swap the color pictures to black and white. In a print shop, we made black and white copies of the color illustrations. These black and white copies (without gray tones) were put underneath transparent graph paper. Wherever white areas of a picture emerged we drew the contours exactly to the millimeter grid. All this within a field of 280 by 190 pixels (the Pearcom had a slightly higher resolution than the Apple][ ).
When that was done you put the ruler on the first line. Then type the starting point of the first white pixel and the endpoint of that white line. Continue with that until all 190 lines and white lines or pixels are described. This seems a lot of work. And it is. But it wasn’t so bad because you only need the start and end points of a white line. Sometimes a line contains several broken lines or pixels. I think that one illustration costs me about a day’s work. Scanning it today would cost you 2 minutes. However: we have created 20 illustrations on that way. In the end we only used 16.
We had or illustrations digitized (example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). So now what? Those were just digital black and white versions of the illustrations from the various media. You could print them. But that wouldn’t make them very special. Then we came up with the idea that we could move pixels per illustration. This gave us the opportunity to change, or change, each illustration on its own specific way. Because when you can shift pixels you can manipulate the image itself. Than we got help from the artist Trevor Batten. He had written a small program which was called BIT_MOD. BIT_MOD worked through PEEK and POKE in HGR2 ‘Page 2’ of the computers graphics memory (location 16384-24575). To check if this would work I did some memory location checking. Everything seems to work fine. After working for a while with the program, I found a way to make all kinds of variations of the illustrations (example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12). This eventually led to 63 different variations printed on A3 size. Three years later these prints, along with the publication (example 1, 2), were presented in Print Gallery, Pieter Brattinga, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.