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The 'Alien' font used in the background

Intro | Background | Tyler Montbriand's version

     

Intro

The font you see in the background and in the game applet is my "Alien" font.

A long way back, out of curiousity, I wrote a program to generate unique symbols. Based on a few simple rules, it generated millions of different character-forms. However most of these looked terrible. By refining the rules driving the program, I managed to reduce the output of the program to a few A4 sheets-full. I then scanned these by eye, picking out symbols I particularly liked.

It was interesting showing these sheets to other people. Whilst I particularly liked some of the more peculiar symbols (that you see in the font), other people had familiar letters leaping out of the page at them (such as "R"s and "P"s and "Q"s). People's perception of the page of symbols seemed to differ radically from one to another.

I eventually mapped a selected 52 forms to the letters A-Z, upper and lower case, and created character forms for the other ASCII symbols also. I created a console font and a GhostScript font.

I had thought that it might be possible to learn to read and write these characters. However that soon went out of the window. The lines are much denser in these characters than in normal latin characters, which makes it really hard to recognise the letters easily - the page looks like it is full of "M"s and "W"s.

I think I will stick to the tried and tested character forms for reading and writing!! It does demonstrate (to me, at least) certain qualities of the letter-forms we are used to that I had taken for granted up 'til now.

-- Jim


Background

Now for the really curious, I will go through this in detail, with images and source files to download! (Several people asked for this information, so it's easier to just publish it for everyone).

My idea for generating unique characters was to take a 3x3 grid of points, and use every possible combination of short lines between these points to create character forms. Out of this huge set of characters, I then applied rules to exclude great chunks of this set until I was left with just a few pages-worth. Eventually I got it down to just this page:

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This sheet is also formatted as an A4 PDF for printing. Note that this sheet also includes a small set of characters at the bottom generated from a 2x3 grid. These are the characters I used for numbers and some of the punctuation.

Out of this sheet, I then picked my basic character set of letters and numbers. I then invented characters to fill the gaps to make this up to a full ASCII set. As the characters are quite simple, they can be drawn as lines rather than outlines, and this is the approach I used for my GhostScript font. However, this made it hard to convert into a proper PostScript font, which is why there isn't one. But anyway, the character set looks like this:

   
abcdefghijklm
ABCDEFGHIJKLM
nopqrstuvwxyz
NOPQRSTUVWXYZ
0123456789___
<>(){}[]`'"^.
,:;=-!?/\*+@~
#$%&_|

The corresponding latin ASCII characters are on the right. I generated a console font from this, and tried using it on the Linux console as I mentioned above. You have to admit that it would have been quite cool if I had learned to read this -- no-one else would be able to understand what I was doing half the time. However, this font turned out to be rather too hard on the eyes. Never mind.

The Python and C source-code to generate all of this, along with PDF files and so on, is available as a ZIP file HERE.


Tyler Montbriand's version

Tyler Montbriand of burningsmell.org has created a hand-drawn TTF version of my alien font with a slightly different look:

This is how it looks to aliens (possibly):


You can download Tyler's TTF file HERE. This is released under a Creative Commons "Attribution Non-Commercial" license. If you want to make commercial use, please contact Tyler or me. Many thanks to Tyler for passing this on.

Tyler's version of the font has been used in several places, including the artwork by some amateur rocketeers, and the YouTube music video linked below:

Sys -- I am
You



UAZUNextUpPrev These pages and files, including applets and artwork, are Copyright (c) 1997-2016 Jim Peters unless otherwise stated. Please contact me if you'd like to use anything not explicitly released, or if you have something interesting to discuss.