TwentyfourSixteen – a 17-segment alpha LCD font



Made in 2016 by Stewart C. Russell –

A mono-spaced font family derived from the HPDL-2416 17-segment alphanumeric 17 segment LED display matrix.

Design size: appx 19 pt

For maximum fidelity, should be displayed/printed red to match the original’s ~640 nm wavelength. This corresponds to RGB #ff2100


Regular only.

Note that this has a very slight skew (5°) built in.


ASCII only, upper case.


Stewart C. Russell –


Dual-licensed CC0/WTFPL (srsly)

All of the segments. I've stashed this glyph at character code U+007f so you can make up new ones.
All of the segments. I’ve stashed this glyph at character code U+007f so you can make up new ones.

Pen plotters: not just output devices …

Pen plotters were pretty expensive and complex pieces of electromechanical equipment. While they often earned their keep in the CAD office, they also had a function that’s almost forgotten: they could be used as input devices, too.

As a kid, we sometimes used to drive past the office of Ferranti-Cetec in Edinburgh. They specialized in digitizers: great big desk or wall mounted devices for capturing points from maps and drawings. Here’s one of their 1973 models:

Ferranti EP210 Freescan Digitiser. Source: Grace's Guide,
Ferranti EP210 Freescan Digitiser. Source: Grace’s Guide,

While the technology and size have changed a bit, these huge bits of engineering kit are the ancestors of today’s track pads and touch screens.

Realizing that their plotters had very precise X-Y indexing and that they had two-way communications to a computer, HP made a drafting sight that fitted in place of a pen on their plotters:

HP drafting sight, part no 09872-60066
HP drafting sight, part no 09872-60066

This is a very pleasing piece of kit, all metal, thick plastic and polished optical glass. They show up on eBay occasionally, and aren’t cheap. With a bit of coercion, it fits into my HP plotter like this:

Drafting sight in HP7470A plotter
Drafting sight in HP7470A plotter

The image is very bright and clear:

Drafting sight near an axis label
Drafting sight near an axis label
Drafting sight over a point
Drafting sight over a point, showing cursor dot

If one has a digitizing sight, one needs to find something to digitize post haste … I’m sure everyone can sense the urgency in that. So I found this, a scan from my undergraduate project writeup (centrifugal pump impeller design ftw, or something), which was probably made on an Amiga or Atari ST:

It's a graph, with pointy bits on it
It’s a graph, with pointy bits on it

I printed this as large as I could on Letter paper, as it’s the only size my HP7470A plotter can take. Now all it needed was a small matter of programming to get the data from the plotter. Here’s a minimally-useful digitizer for HP and compatible serial plotters. Although I ran it on my little HP grit wheel plotter attached to a Raspberry Pi, I developed it with my larger Roland plotter. The only fancy module it needs is pySerial.

#!/usr/bin/env python
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
# a really crap HP-GL point digitizer
#  scruss - 2016

from time import sleep
from string import strip
import serial

ser = serial.Serial(port='/dev/ttyUSB1', baudrate=9600, timeout=0.5)
lbl = ''
points = []
labels = []
k = 0
retval = 0

ser.write('DP;')                # put in digitizing mode
while lbl != 'quit':
    ret = strip(, chr(13))
    print ('Retval: ', ret)
    if ret != '':
        retval = int(ret)
    if retval & 4:              # bit 2 is set; we have a point!
        print ('Have Point! Retval: ', retval)
        retval = 0
        pt = strip(, chr(13))
        print ('OD point: ', pt)
        lbl = raw_input('Input label [quit to end]: ')
        k = k + 1
        ser.write('DP;')        # put in digitizing mode again

f = open('digit.dat', 'w')
for i in range(k):

In the unlikely event that anyone actually uses this, they’ll need to change the serial port details near the top of the program.

The program works like this:

  1. Move the drafting sight to the point you want to capture using the plotter’s cursor keys, and hit the plotter’s ENTER key
  2. Your computer will prompt you for a label. This can be anything except quit, that ends the program
  3. When you have digitized all the points you want and entered quit as the last label, the program writes the points to the file digit.dat

I didn’t implement any flow control or other buffer management, so it can crash in a variety of hilarious ways. I did manage to get it to work on the lower trace of that graph, and got these data:


The first two columns are X and Y, in HP-GL units — that’s 1/40 mm, or 1/1016 inches. The third column will always be 1 if you have the sight down. The last columns are the label; if you put commas in them, opening the file as CSV will split the label into columns. I used it to fudge axis points. You’ll also note that the last three lines of data are my valiant attempts to quit the program …

Assuming the axes are not skewed (they are, very slightly, but shhh) some simple linear interpolation gives you the results below:

 12.1    0.086
 15.1    0.093
 19.7    0.104
 24.7    0.114
 30.1    0.122
 39.7    0.145
 49.5    0.162
 60.0    0.182
 70.0    0.203
 79.8    0.221
 89.9    0.232
100.0    0.262
120.1    0.293
150.2    0.351
199.7    0.442
248.9    0.516
270.7    0.597

Good enough for a demo.

(For prettier things to do with plotter digitizing commands, Ed Nisley KE4ZNU has made some rather lovely Superformula patterns)

If you don’t have a plotter, or even if you do and you don’t have hours to waste mucking about with Python, obsolete optics and serial connections, Ankit Rohatgi’s excellent WebPlotDigitizer gets numbers out of graphs quickly. It handles all sorts of graphs rather well.

Scripting Inkscape – kinda

A couple of months back at the GTALUG Graphics session, someone asked if Inkscape – the 2D vector graphics workhorse that everyone seems to use – could be scripted. We pretty much said that it couldn’t. Recently, I found out that it does support a limited form of scripting, and wish to pass this on.

The key to it is understanding Inkscape’s command verbs. These can be listed using:

inkscape --verb-list

These verbs map to Inkscape commands, and often have names linked to the menu they live in (such as “FileQuit” doing what you’d expect).

I had a task I had to repeat on many files: convert all the stroked lines to filled paths. You’d need to do this if you are laser engraving a simple drawing, but there are other applications for this too. Here’s a command that would do this for all objects in a drawing, and overwrite the input file:

inkscape --verb EditSelectAll --verb SelectionUnGroup \
        --verb EditSelectAll --verb SelectionUnGroup \
        --verb EditSelectAll --verb SelectionUnGroup \
        --verb EditSelectAll --verb ObjectToPath \
        --verb EditSelectAll --verb SelectionCombine \
        --verb EditSelectAll --verb StrokeToPath \
        --verb FileSave --verb FileClose \
        --verb FileQuit input.svg

What this does:

  1. Selects everything, and ungroups all objects (×3, to break up most nested groups);
  2. Selects everything, and converts all objects to paths (so text, circles, polygons, spirals become paths, the lowest-level SVG object);
  3. Selects everything, and combines everything into one path;
  4. Selects everything, and converts all strokes to filled paths (so a two node straight line 1 mm wide would become a four node filled rectangle 1 mm thick);
  5. Overwrite the input file, close it, and quit.

The process has some disadvantages:

  1. It opens a window every time. You can’t execute verbs without the GUI opening.
  2. You can’t have another copy of Inkscape open while you do this.
  3. Realistically, you can’t really do anything at your computer until this is done, as it’s popping up windows and shifting focus like crazy. (ssh types can say “heh!” in a smug manner now)
  4. You can’t set parameters to verbs.
  5. It will overwrite the input file.
  6. It clogs up your “File / Recent” menu with all of the files you scripted.

FifteenTwenty: now on Fontlibrary and github


Use it / download it here: FifteenTwenty on
Download it / fork it here: scruss/FifteenTwenty on github
Local copy: (268K; includes FontForge sources)

FifteenTwenty UltraLight: single-stroke OTF for CNC/plotting

Screenshot from 2016-05-08 17-18-31Following on from FifteenTwenty, I made a hairline/single stroke version of the font especially for CNC use. This is a slight misuse of the OpenType format, but if you’re plotting/CNCing/laser cutting, the filled paths of standard fonts don’t work so well. Single-line (or stroke) fonts used to be possible in PostScript — the version of Courier shipped with early Apple LaserWriter printers was composed of strokes, rather than filled paths — but have fallen out of favour. If you have a device with a defined tool width, it’s better to let the tool make the width of the mark/cut. Here’s the hairline font plotted with a 0.7 mm pen to illustrate what I mean:

1520hairlineThis font is almost invisible on screen or on a regular printer, so I don’t recommend installing it unless you have specific CNC/plotting needs. Please note that the font will cause your device to follow the tool path of each letter twice.

Download: (or more options …)

work as if you live in the early days of a better nation