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Author Topic: Changing the EXOS font (Read 180 times)

Offline elmer

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Changing the EXOS font
« on: 2020.November.21. 19:59:02 »
One of the things that I always found interesting about the 8-bit era of computers is the difference in every machine's system font that either helped, or hurt, the readability of the text on the screen.

Because nearly all computers used an 8-pixel high font, each computer's designers had to choose whether to make their upper-case characters either 6 or 7 pixels high, depending upon whether they wanted the character shapes to look nicer (by using 7-pixel height), or whether they wanted to avoid the descenders of the "gpqy" characters hitting the tops of many upper-case characters on the line below (by using 6-pixel height).

One of the unusual, and really great, things about the Enterprise is that it has a 9-pixel high system font that could have allowed it to use both the nicer 7-pixel height for upper-case characters, and to still avoid the unpleasant look of having descenders hit the top of the upper-case characters on the line below.

Unfortunately, whoever it was at Intelligent Software that designed the font, didn't actually do that ... which is something that I always found annoying when I was using my Enterprise back in the 1980s.


Now that I am using EXOS 2.4, and can program my own EXOS EPROM, I decided to fix that, and to also modify a few other characters to make them look a little nicer (in my own personal opinion).


Long time Enterprise programmers will probably already know that the system font is stored compressed in the EXOS ROM, so I had to figure out how this worked, and then figure out how to patch the code to alter the compression a bit, and to then compress the new font into the same 630 byte memory space that the old font fits in ($E5D2-$E847 in EXOS 2.1).


Anyway, here is the result, showing the original EXOS 2.1 font on the left, and my updated font on the right.  The changes are easiest to see on the Hungarian version of Zozo's RAM test, but the Spanish and German versions also look better (to me).

25815-0

Since "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", I understand that few people here may be interested in using this themselves, but if anyone is curious, I can post the source code for font-decoding patch, and for the utility that I wrote (on the PC) to apply the patch (and the font) to Zozo's EXOS 2.4 ROMs.

For editing bitmapped-fonts, I recommend that folks use Fony, because it is easy to use, and can export the font as raw binary data.
« Last Edit: 2020.November.21. 22:18:00 by elmer »

Online gflorez

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Re: Changing the EXOS font
« Reply #1 on: 2020.November.21. 20:40:16 »
Great initiative!

But... the character font goes on the keyboard driver, and the BRD.Rom and derivatives install modified Keyboard and Editor drivers, that come with an English(USA) and localised copies of the font... fortunately not packed.

It is very easy to found the two fonts in the Rom if you know what to search for.

On the other way, your technique can serve for the fixing of a German keyboard Enterprise without the need of the language Rom, because it is annoying to search punctuation on the wrong keyboard.... But also the position of the keys need to be changed, and that information is near the font.

Zozo plans to fix it on the next EXOS reincarnation but then the list of different EXOS roms will grow. The Spanish keyboard is similar to the German one, so I am wiling to have one German EP to try that.
« Last Edit: 2020.November.21. 20:45:56 by gflorez »

Offline elmer

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Re: Changing the EXOS font
« Reply #2 on: 2020.November.21. 22:16:21 »
But... the character font goes on the keyboard driver, and the BRD.Rom and derivatives install modified Keyboard and Editor drivers, that come with an English(USA) and localised copies of the font... fortunately not packed.

Thanks, I had not checked out the BRD.rom/ESP.rom/HUN.rom language extensions, and so didn't see that they changed some characters in the font! :oops:

But those language ROMs don't actually redefine all of the characters in the font, they rely on the base font that is built into EXOS, and then they change just a few of the character definitions.

So it will be easy to modify those three language ROMs and just define different character designs that take advantage of the lower baseline in my modified font ... it is probably only a few hours of work. :cool:

Online gflorez

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Re: Changing the EXOS font
« Reply #3 on: 2020.November.22. 01:33:57 »
There is one variation of the Spanish Rom, the ESB.Rom, made for the German keyboard, that you can also find on the emulator installation. On it, the English/USA layout on the Rom  has been replaced by an "European" QWERTY  layout with all the same "English" characters but in its corrected "German" position. And the Spanish keyboard in the Rom is also a QWERTY one with the "European" layout, so you always find the punctuation symbols.


The language Rom adds a lot of flexibility adapting the Enterprise to a language/country, with the dual messages and keyboards. But is also a great example of the expandability of the Enterprise, how a new driver can substitute the stock driver and the machine works the same.

Offline elmer

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Re: Changing the EXOS font
« Reply #4 on: 2020.November.22. 04:26:01 »
So it will be easy to modify those three language ROMs and just define different character designs that take advantage of the lower baseline in my modified font ... it is probably only a few hours of work. :cool:

Done!

I'll send you a PM with some ROMs to try. :mrgreen:

Offline elmer

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Re: Changing the EXOS font
« Reply #5 on: 2020.November.23. 21:35:21 »
After some great feedback from @gflorez, I have made some more modifications to my font, and have gone back to using the Enterprise's very distinct narrow designs for capital 'I' and small 'l' ... which meant changing some other designs to keep all of the charcters balanced.

There are also a few cleanups on some of the punctuation characters.

This should make the new font more comfortable and familiar-looking to people, while still making it easier to read, especially when using 80-column mode, or when typing characters with accents.

Here are all of the patched EXOS 2.4 ROMs ...
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 17:29 by elmer »

Offline elmer

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Re: Changing the EXOS font
« Reply #6 on: 2020.November.23. 21:39:57 »
And here are the latest font files ...