384 exciting positions!

Recently I posted a message on “The Mausoleum Club” forum asking for more information about the BBC’s internally developed analogue character generation system ANCHOR. Regular readers of this blog will know that I created a true-type font of the ANCHOR character set which, for the benefit of Doctor Who fans everywhere, now includes the all important block character.

After my original two blog posts, BBC Graphic Designer Bob Richardson very kindly went digging in his private library and came up with some very interesting information for me.

From “The A-Z of the BBC” (1978) by Naomi Capon:

“Anchor is a piece of BBC designed equipment which allows captions, titles etc to be electronically inserted..from a typewriter style keyboard. 82 characters including full upper and lower case alphabets are available, any of which can be made to appear at any of 384 positions in the picture area which is divided into a matrix of 12 rows each with 32 character positions.”

Bob Richardson, posted on 29-9-2009 at 12:58 PM
Retrieved 29 Sep 2009 from http://www.mausoleumclubforum.org.uk/xmb/viewthread.php?tid=19618

The entire thread is a very worthwhile read if you have the time. I was curious as to how much screen space 12 rows of 32 characters of ANCHOR would take up, so I decided to try this out for myself.

I’d designed the ANCHOR font so that 41pt would be actual size, so in Inkscape, I made up a 32 x 12 matrix of ANCHOR characters at 41pt above Test Card F. Sure enough, it fills the picture safe area of the card perfectly – clever old BBC!

A perfect fit – click to enlarge

One thing I forgot to mention in my earlier post was that my ANCHOR typeface is squashed a bit horizontally. This is because it’s designed to be used with non-square pixel 720 x 576 images – if you use it on 788 x 576 images it will appear too thin on screen. If you want to use the font on square pixel images you’ll need to scale it horizontally by 109.4%.

So now I can go ahead and create scintillating TV line-ups from times past. Who wants to watch “The X-Factor” when you could be watching a line-up like this?

There’s an evening packed with entertainment on BBC2…

If you’d like to play about with my ANCHOR font for yourself, you may be interested to know I licensed ANCHOR under CC-BY-SA and it’s available to download from here.

2 Replies to “384 exciting positions!”

  1. Thanks Dave for making this available – I'm very much an "enthusiastic amateur" with video, who also uses Inkscape for producing captions, so I'll be looking forward to some unadulterated nostalgia thanks to this font 🙂

    Just one query: I would be interested in following the forum thread you referred to, but the link gives a 404 error. Do you have a "backup"?

    Many thanks!

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