I’m trying to figure this out for a project I’m working on.
I tried the obvious System, Lucida Console, but the space between the letters didn’t look right in Photoshop. I used WST_English but it doesn’t have a symbol for backslash. I’m set on Fixedsys and it looks pretty good, but I want to be absolutely sure.
I think Fixedsys is as good as you’re going to get without wrangling up some old XTs and ATs and photographing their displays.
Different video cards of that era had ever so slightly different display fonts hard-coded in them. Now that you bring up the subject, I recall pondering the change in the 0 (zero) when I upgraded from EGA to VGA. The zero went from having two lumps on its “inside” to a nicely rendered virgule.
There’s not much you could vary from the standard, when you look at how it’s sent to a screen. The video card text page would display the built in font by the program sending a chr$(number) to the text buffer and the text showed up. In other words ascii code is built into the video hardware. For the graphics screen you made your own font, but that was normally 8 points by 8 points, and unless you had to have text and graphics you didn’t bother. Normally you used the ascii code to video card route.
If you can use PCF fonts, DOSemu has very good VGA fonts in that form.
The important thing to understand is that on the original hardware, the default font was physically part of the display hardware and therefore could not be changed. It did not correspond to any file and was not visible to software as a font at all. The only way to get fancy fonts was to kick the system into a graphics mode and draw what you wanted pixel-by-pixel into Video RAM. (You could use font files to help you do that, of course.)
I’m operating from memory here, but I spent WAAAY longer than I should have fooling around with DOS programming back in the day, and I could quote portions of the pink shirt book.
What you say about fonts is not necessarily true, and it all depends on what you mean by ‘original hardware’. Certainly on most XT-and-better systems I worked on (PC environment), I was able to overwrite the default DOS font with whatever I preferred - which can be disconcerting if you make a mistake while testing and the display starts speaking Romulan. Font replacement wasn’t something Joe User could do by themselves, but it wasn’t hard for anybody with basic programming skills and a compiler, either. Fonts did reside in the ‘display hardware’, but were loaded into reserved memory areas at boot time… where it could be replaced.
On most systems, anyway. I did manage once to lock up a PS/2 (still not sure why that one wouldn’t work), and the Hercules line of graphics adapters seemed to ignore my attempts to replace the font, although WordPerfect was able to get around this if you used the Hercules driver, dangit. But for the most part it was simple.
(Alternatively, you could attempt to patch the OS at run-time and modify the display routines – MS-DOS, especially, was vulnerable to any number of these sorts of tricks – but that’s more complex than even the most font-happy goon would want to tackle. I think.)
However, you were still limited to fixed-width blocks and some funky rules about what could be drawn where*; the GUI, when it arrived, took care of the last of these hassles for would-be font enthusiasts.
** note that this refers only to replacing the system, text-mode-only font, and not to situations where you were operating in blended text-and-graphics mode or any other funkiness that VGA introduced.*
Finally, and probably to belabor the point, any of a number of utilities (TSR programs, in the terminology of the day) could replace the font for you with any of a number of fonts of your choice, in both text-only and graphics mode. Often they’d do this by modifying the stored font in memory, sometimes by patching the OS. The risk with the latter is that it is, well, a Bad Idea.
Okay, I’ve satisfied my inner DOS and font geek for a while. Nitpick over!
I ran across it mostly when trying to figure out an interface to routines for hardware. I so liked when windows required hardware manufactures to provide drivers to interface with programs. Having to write the dos drivers for every hardware you wanted to be compatable with your program sucked. The computers with the operating system on a ROM were full of little gems.
Remember being able to use DOS extensions. Custom DOS commands added to the OS. Some people had a nightmare amount of them on computers.