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Introducing Dotsies: The Space-Saving Font
March 16, 2012 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Introducing Dotsies: The Space-Saving Font
posted by Confess, Fletch (69 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Faint of Butt at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Why are we trying to save space in the internet age?
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


I feel like anything written in this should include a list of prime numbers and the atomic numbers of hydrogen and carbon, Arecibo message style.
posted by Artw at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


As long as I never have to see Neutraface /Market Deco ever again I'm happy.
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2012


Is it April 1st already?
posted by tommasz at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's like shorthand without the reasons!
posted by clarknova at 11:32 AM on March 16, 2012 [32 favorites]


I think he may have missed the fact that fast reading relies on whole word recognition, which is pretty easy to learn by reading not as fast for a while.

I would think any speed benefit from cramming more words into a narrower space would by lost from having to relearn that the word ['unconsciousness] looks roughly like [;:'";:;";':;";;]
posted by helicomatic at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dotsies?
Notsies!
posted by yoink at 11:34 AM on March 16, 2012


It's only a matter of time until someone develops a "fun, jaunty" version of it (Comic Dotsies, say), and I start receiving emails written in that. In pale cyan on white.

(The HR office will send me an empty email with an attachment of a screenshot of that, in pale cyan on white, in Microsoft Word.)
posted by Wolfdog at 11:34 AM on March 16, 2012 [22 favorites]


This is the typeface they should've used for Avatar.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're off the hook today, Comic Sans..
posted by obscurator at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I absolutely hate it when I read something and can't tell whether or not it's supposed to be a joke.
posted by bondcliff at 11:36 AM on March 16, 2012


I assume Perl coders have already adopted it?
posted by griphus at 11:36 AM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Still waiting for Zapf Dingbats to really take off.
posted by Fizz at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, Braille minus one bit of information, all in one row. Braille has been around for what, about three centuries? And he just thought of this?
posted by adamrice at 11:37 AM on March 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was about to say: it's like Braille for your eyes (i.e. kind of dumb).
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on March 16, 2012


--  .  ....

posted by hangashore at 11:41 AM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow, that's compact! Too bad it's illegible. Solve one problem no one really cared about, while causing another problem so great as to render the end product completely useless. It's like making a toilet quieter by welding the lid shut.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2012 [36 favorites]


This is ridiculously wasteful. You can get three bytes in a single pixel.
posted by Flunkie at 11:54 AM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


To be honest, if I had time, I'd be interested in experimenting a bit to find out how quickly one can pick up the knack of reading it fluently. There's no practical reason for it, but that period where the brain is getting used to recognizing familiar content in a new form is always kind of stimulating.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:55 AM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I could see it operating as a kind of microfilm for physical situations. If you can use a smartphone to do some augmented reality translation, you could cram a great deal of info into a small sign.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even from a practical standpoint, it should be handy for cheating on exams.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:00 PM on March 16, 2012


?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:00 PM on March 16, 2012


!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2012


i use this font for comments when i'm programming in brainfuck. really helps clarify the code.
posted by iotic at 12:03 PM on March 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


But I wonder whether a new text encoding format like dotsies is really what we need?

No, we don't. Next question, one that can be read, please.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:08 PM on March 16, 2012


I barely understand that article, but it seems like the idea is reminiscent of Iain M. Banks' Marain, the primary language of the Culture:
Marain is the Culture's shared language. Marain was designed to "appeal to poets, pedants, engineers and programmers". [...] The symbols of the Marain alphabet can be displayed in three-by-three grids of binary dots and thus correspond to nine-bit wide binary numbers.

Marain itself is also open to encryption and dialect-specific implementations for different parts of the Culture. M1 is basic Nonary Marain, the three-by-three grid. All Culture citizens can communicate in this variant. Other variants include M8 through M16, which are encrypted by various degrees, and are typically used by the Contact Section. Higher level encryptions exist, the highest of these being M32. M32 and lower level encrypted signals are the province of Special Circumstances.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:08 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


As an input mechanism (or even encryption) it seems interesting. I can appreciate it as innovation for innovation's sake, even if practical application may be somewhat wanting at first blush.
posted by rich at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2012


This is ridiculously wasteful. You can get three bytes in a single pixel.

Hi, my name is Nolan Bushnell and I have a job opportunity of a lifetime for you.
posted by griphus at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Numbers and punctuation aren't altered."

Well that's rather limiting, isn't it?

My proposed expansion:
Numbers are in cyan, the top dot is always solid, to ensure 0 doesn't look like a space, the bottom four dots encode a digit of hexadecimal.

Punctuation is in yellow.
posted by RobotHero at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2012


Finally! I was tired of converting all of the text I read to a series of QR Codes.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It looks like he put very little thought to assigning the patterns to the letters. I bet if he fine tuned them based on frequency of use and common/uncommon pairings and sequences (they'd probably have to be language-specific, which means English-oriented) he could make it very slightly less useless.
posted by rocket88 at 12:16 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


This what happens when geeks never leave their mom's basement.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:26 PM on March 16, 2012


I tried the bookmarklet on the dotsies.org page, and felt that my experience would have been much improved if the resulting dot pattern would have started to evolve according to the rules of game of life.
posted by tykky at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't this just a series of one-dimensional QR codes for humans?
posted by bicyclefish at 12:34 PM on March 16, 2012


"Numbers and punctuation aren't altered."

Which means, among other things, that 'k' is indistinguishable from ':' (colon) and 'e' from '.' (period). Good luck reading the serial number off the back of your latest purchase.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:40 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not content with simply improving the information density of fonts, Craig’s also developed a chorded input method for dotsies. This allows the entire alphabet to be typed using only one hand.

Um, it's a font. How is his chorded input method specific to Dotsies? Won't it just generate, you know, letters?

That said, this whole thing seems like such a masturbatory exercise that it's small wonder he had to come up with an efficient one-handed input method.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:42 PM on March 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


This is kind of neat as a one-off idea.

The fact that he's been supposedly working on it for 10 years is what makes it a bit lame. As rocket88 points out, there's no thought to how these letters cram themselves into words or their shape or frequency.

The things we know as letters are just arbitrary shapes we learn and memorize as kids. We could easily learn another set. I'd love to see more creative takes on what these could be.
posted by vacapinta at 12:42 PM on March 16, 2012


Isn't this just a series of one-dimensional QR codes for humans?

Not even. Many of the characters are impossible to determine what they are without other characters beside them for alignment comparison. If you wrote one or two of them on a box or package for example you'd never know if it was an a or an e without additional characters. At least a QR code has alignment markings.
posted by barc0001 at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now that I've thought it I can't stop making 'dotsies' pronounced like 'goatses'
posted by shakespeherian at 12:46 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to be able to appreciate the whole innovation for innovation's sake aspect of this, but as George_Spiggott and barc0001 both point out, the characters are essentially unreadable in isolation from one another. Instead of being "neat but impractical" it ends up being practically useless.
posted by asnider at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2012


I missed the memo. Is the price of computer memory going to be raised by a nickel per quinto-mega-teraflopperogigaplexus again that we need to start saving space?
posted by Mike D at 12:53 PM on March 16, 2012


If we were inventing the alphabet today he might have me convinced, but sometimes we still need to hand write things. The shape of our letters clearly are optimized for flowing lines and I would hate trying to write that stuff by hand.
posted by dgran at 12:56 PM on March 16, 2012


I want to use this to knit secret messages in code on the insides of mitten cuffs! They would even be a secret to me because I doubt I'd remember which set of dots corresponded to what letter. :(
posted by bewilderbeast at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2012


It's not RAM that's being saved rather screen realestate. To that end I can see the reason for this font even if this particular implementation is somewhat flawed.
posted by Mitheral at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2012


I'd love to see more creative takes on what these could be.

Definitely check out Elian, an alternative lettering system that reminds me of this project. It's both dead-simple to learn and incredibly beautiful when written with a caligrapher's eye.

Though I definitely agree with the drawbacks that others have brought up, I actually really like the way the dotsies look when they're pushed together and form interesting patterns. It's too bad that they were presented as TED fodder about how this typeface can change the world, instead of just "look at this neat way of writing I made up!"
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


I bet if he fine tuned them based on frequency of use and common/uncommon pairings and sequences

You could even make them variable-length, with the most common ones being shortest, and place them end-to-end instead of side-by-side to take advantage of this. You'd have to separate them by some sequence that doesn't occur within any character, of course— perhaps a longer-than-usual gap. The resulting one-dimensional alphabet could even be transmitted long distances using extremely simple technology. I think this "Far-Writing" technology (as I call it) will come in very useful in the coming steampunk zombie apocalypse.



Snark aside, this is an interesting exercise, and if it weren't being framed as something that could actually be used or had any practical purpose I think it'd be much better received.
posted by hattifattener at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah it's kind of dumb, but I still think it would be kind of fun to print the entire Gutenberg Project libary with this font at the smallest practical point size and then store it in a 1,000 year time capsule with the font key.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:22 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


He claims to be able to read dotsies-formatted text at about 150 words per minute, which is pretty darned respectable.

You misspelled "unbelievable bullshit", Scott Merrill.

Not content with simply improving the information density of fonts, Craig’s also developed a yet another chorded input method for dotsies(assuming his method doesn't simply reduplicate one of the many already in existance). This allows the entire alphabet to be typed using only one hand. The dotsies typing instructions make it pretty clear yet another unverified claim about how this saves time and effort: “each finger never moves off of a dedicated number key (your middle finger never moves off of the ’3′ key, etc.).”

Honestly, just how naive is this columnist?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:30 PM on March 16, 2012


Good news, I've condensed all our picture writing down into combinations of just five different wedges! This will save so much clayspace.
posted by Shumsi-egil-abash at 37 muesh 3 dana on Arah Nisanu 3 [+] [!]

It'll never catch on. It's not like there's a shortage of clay round here...
posted by Gudba-lugale-pishkim at 40 muesh 3 dana on Arah Nisanu 3 [+] [!]
posted by Jehan at 1:37 PM on March 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


The issue I have with Elian is that its derivation uses the normal ordering of the alphabet rather than a frequency-based ordering. Since the third set of letters gets dotted, and U and Y are in the third set, that's more than one vowel that has to get dotted.
posted by Jpfed at 1:38 PM on March 16, 2012


I'm missing the part about why he thought this was a Big Problem that clearly needed an Innovative Solution. Was his whole premise just "You have to move your eyes far to read!!! I will squash down the text into indistinguishable masses of pixels so you don't have to anymore!"? Because 1) I've never heard of anyone getting a repetitive eye-motion injury, so I fail to see how this is an issue (god, dude, your eyes move all the time regardless) and 2) he's solving one non-problem by...making it impossible to read at all.

I really want to make with the sarcastic comments but if I start I will never stop.
posted by clavier at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's cool if only as a teaching tool for chorded typing. Managed to get the alphabet down pretty quickly using his instructions.
posted by MangyCarface at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2012


Honestly, just how naive is this columnist?

To be fair, he admits openly that he is too lazy to actually fact-check Craig's claims haven't been verified.
posted by asnider at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I'd rather just recycle paper.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:50 PM on March 16, 2012


..|..
posted by The Deej at 1:51 PM on March 16, 2012


Good thing the Nazis
didn't have Dotsies
or Turing might not
have dot dot dot
posted by oulipian at 2:16 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Definitely check out Elian, an alternative lettering system that reminds me of this project. It's both dead-simple to learn and incredibly beautiful when written with a caligrapher's eye.

Ooh! That is beautiful!
http://www.ccelian.com/concepca.html

It is rather a shame that he didn't preserve some of the original letterforms from roman script. 'O' is no longer circle/box shaped. Wtf?

But still, so elegant.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:16 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


IAmBroom: "He claims to be able to read dotsies-formatted text at about 150 words per minute, which is pretty darned respectable.

You misspelled "unbelievable bullshit", Scott Merrill.
"

Not so much. It's easy to read fast WHEN YOU INVENTED IT...
posted by Samizdata at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2012


Introducing ASCII: The Space Saving Paper Tape Font.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:40 PM on March 16, 2012


Elian is quite beautiful, and clearly presented as a fun thing to doodle with. For that reason, I'm glad that it's designed to be easy to derive. I can imagine sitting in a meeting and remembering only the basic principle, drawing a little box with the alphabet in it, and then writing about foxs and lazy dogs to my heart's content.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 3:38 PM on March 16, 2012


"Introducing ASCII: The Space Saving Paper Tape Font."

Unleash the power of Baudot: 37.5% more efficient than ASCII!
posted by Pinback at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eye Wood Rank Spelin Normalizashun Ahed of Letterphorms As Significant Defeks of Thuh Inglish Langwidge.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:39 PM on March 16, 2012


This is innovation? Have we come full circle from binary, to ASCII, to Unicode, back to binary again?
posted by dopeydad at 7:19 PM on March 16, 2012


Baudot patented a 5-bit code in 1874. This guy would recognize his font in the first data ever punched on paper tape if the letter to bit pattern mapping were the same.
posted by dopeydad at 8:26 PM on March 16, 2012


First of all if you want to save ink it should be based on the letter frequency table, with single dots for e, t, a, o, and i. If that's too anglocentric, then vowels for single dot. It'd shorten the learning curve too. Other patterns could be that hard consonants are weighted toward the bottom and soft consonants weighted toward the top, or something like that. A readable notation should focus on word or sound recognition, not alphabetic sequence, which nobody really cares about.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:03 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


At $10,000 a gallon for inkjet ink, this could save a lot of money.

Aside from that, it's a pretty dumb idea.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:18 PM on March 16, 2012


How is it for writing Hopelandic?
posted by jimmythefish at 10:40 PM on March 16, 2012


EBCDIC old is new again.
posted by flabdablet at 10:59 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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