Pin Marks

This week I had occasion to learn about pin marks, courtesy of Ed from Swamp Press, who replied to a query I’d sent him asking “what about the pin marks?”

Which prompted me to wonder “hmmm, what does he mean by pin marks?”

So I set out to learn, ending up at Identifying Metal Type: Pin Marks, an excellent resource that says, in part:

A “pin mark” is a distinctive, usually circular, depression which appears on the side of some (but not all) metal printing types. It may be relatively simple … or quite elaborate … It is only one of many features which may assist in the identification of type.

My question for Ed was prompted by a careful reader of my Twitter feed noting that, in this proof of a poster for Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, the U in “GUILD” appeared out of sorts.

And it was (I’d used a U of the wrong weight for that letter).

Which further prompted me to look more carefully at all the type and realize that the “S” in “AS” appeared out of sorts as well.


A closer examination of this “S” (on the right in the photo below) compared to other “S” (on the left in the photo) in the drawer revealed the, indeed, although they were all on a 36 point body, the one I’d pulled out was of a slightly larger size:

Four S

I sent a query to Ed – who knows more about metal type than I will ever know – and he asked, as indicated earlier, “what about the pin marks?”

So what about the pin marks!

Here’s a close-up of the pin marks on a “regular S” (left) and on an “oversize S” (right). What I learn from these is that the letter on the left was cast by Caslon, whereas the one on the right was cast by Stephenson, Blake. Both are marked “36,” for 36 point. Among other things this tells me that company that cast each, that it’s European type (as Caslon and Stephenson, Blake were both UK companies; indeed Stephenson, Blake acquired Caslon in the 1930s) and, generally, that it’s “foundry type,” as opposed to type cast on a Monotype casting machine.

Pin Marks

The shocking thing is that this type has been in my midst – less than a metre from where I type, in fact – for two years, and it’s only now that I’ve come to learn that this helpful information is imprinted on every letter.

So much to learn!

Here’s the finished print, with both the U and the S corrected:


Ten Years Later, What's Broken on the Web?

Writing my “10 years after Reboot” post yesterday afforded me a good opportunity to discover how much of the web gets broken after a decade of being left fallow. Here’s what I learned:

The greatest asset to my archival research was that time of my life, the spring and summer of 2005, being the high-point of my blogging volume: I wrote 850 posts that year, and was experimenting with with personal podcasting (after recording the first episode of Live from the Formosa Tea House the September before). I was also relatively disciplined with categorizing the posts I wrote here, so I found a rich Reboot7 tag when I went looking yesterday.

In retrospect I wish I’d taken more photographs of people rather than of Danish buildings. I wish I’d kept up my early-trip habit of reflection-through-podcasting, as I would like to hear myself ruminating on the conference after it happened in the same style as I did before. But, when all is said and done, there’s was a healthy enough collection of writing, audio, video and photographs to recall enough of the details of the event to memorialize it.

10 Years Ago at Reboot 7

Ten years ago today, on June 7, 2005, almost exactly at the time I’m writing this post, I boarded an Air Canada flight to Copenhagen, via Montreal and London.

I was off to attend my first Reboot conference.

The Reboot 7 Website, from The Internet Archive

I’d first learned about Reboot through Ben Hammersley: a video of his talk at Reboot 6 in 2003 prompted me to send him an email in the summer of 2003 asking him to come and speak at our nascent Zap Your PRAM conference here on Prince Edward Island. To my surprise, he agreed. And we built a conference around him. And then, for complex reasons related here, he had to pull out. But we went ahead with the conference anyway, and it was a rousing success.

A couple of years later, I reasoned that, given that Reboot had been the spark that inspired Zap Your PRAM, I should visit the “mothership.”

Air Canada Seat Sale from 2005

The stars aligned to make this happen when, on June 2, 2015 Air Canada announced a no-advance-purchase-required seat sale. I booked flights ($1273 return), registered for the conference, and found a hotel. With 5 days to spare. I sent an email to conference organizer Thomas Madsen-Mygdal letting him know that, after earlier sending a “sorry, I can’t come” email, my story had changed:

This morning I opened my morning paper to find that Air Canada started a seat sale, with headline “Fly to Europe on a whim…”  I took this as a sign.  I’ve made room in my calendar, and rearranged some finances, and I’m coming to reboot.

I’ve registered on the reboot website, and sent payment in by Paypal.

And, on June 7, 2005, I headed to Copenhagen.

During my stopover in Montreal at Dorval Airport, I recorded a strangely-detailed podcast from the airport parking garage.

The next day, June 8, after flying overnight and transiting at Heathrow, upon my arrival in the CABINN Hotel I recorded another podcast.

And then, later that night, after several adventures involving my hotel room door not locking properly, I recorded yet another podcast, on that topic.

Although they were strangely-detailed, I’m glad I recorded those podcasts, as they are a pleasant little glimpse at younger-me through an audio time machine; I ruminated about this at the time.

By the morning of June 9, I was rested and fed and almost ready for Reboot to start.

I went out and about by bicycle for the day, recorded another podcast, where I reflected on my Copenhagen setup (iBook, Griffin iMic), on bicycling on the free Copenhagen bicycles, and on my visit to the Danish Architecture Centre.

After that full day of rambling around Copenhagen, I found my way to the pre-conference meetup at a bar downtown; at that event I met Jyri Engeström (memorialized in this photo) and then, a while later, Olle Jonsoon (memorialized in a story we both have versions of). One of the things Olle and I talked about that night was podcasting, and this prompted Olle to record one of his own, speculating on what was to come.

Reboot-proper started early the next morning, June 10, at Keddelhallen, and I recorded a little atmospheric sound from the front yard and then, a few moments later, some of the sounds from inside the main hall just before things got started.

And then Reboot began.

I learned. I ate. I met people.

Among those I met were Felix Petersen and Stefan Kellner, who presented (audio) about this thing they called Plazes, at the time a spare-time-hack, something I’d signed up for the September before and then promptly ignored. I re-installed Plazes on my iBook that night, and so my second Plazes “checkin” came on June 10 at 7:53 p.m. at Keddelhallen (something I know because I preserved my complete Plazes archive from checkin number one onward).

Last on the program on that first day was a showing of The Mother of All Demos (I captured a little audio here).

And then I came back the next day for Day 2, on June 11.

For that second day I opted to leave my iBook at the hotel and to use my Moleskine to “blog on paper,” which I described here and the results of which are here.

That night, en route to the post-conference supper, I met Mark Wubben and Anne van Kesteren – at the time young high school students. As it turns out, Mark was an enthusiastic listener of my friend Steven’s podcast.

That supper was, as it turns out, a big step for me in my rage against the shyness: I met a great collection of new people, simply by deciding that it would be a good idea.

That night, after the supper and the after-party, back at the CABINN I fired up Plazes again, and this gave rise to the Plazes-mediated meeting of Ton Zijlstra and Martin Röll.

The next day, June 12, I had another unexpectedly interesting supper, and then, on June 13, a walk in the countryside followed by supper in Sweden.


On June 14, I flew back to Prince Edward Island, via Frankfurt and Montreal. Exhausted but happy and very, very changed.

So many of the people I met at that first of the Reboots I attended are friends to this day; it seems like impossibly long ago that I met them all, but the intervening decade has been all the more interesting because of them.

I went back to Reboot in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (that last year with Catherine).

And then, after five consecutive spring trips to Copenhagen, Reboot came to an end (or, perhaps, a multi-year hiatus?).

The Mysterious Symbols of PEI Road Signs

Last week the Canadian Cartographic Association held its annual meeting here in Charlottetown. By way of a delightful cartographic coincidence, I made the acquaintance of the program chair, Roger Wheate, from the University of Northern British Columbia, and over the weekend I got a chance to spend some time out and about with Roger.

This morning, after he returned to Prince George, Roger sent me an intriguing photo, wondering whether I knew what the symbol represented:

Tourism Photo

I knew enough to know that the starfish represented the Points East Coastal Drive and that the “56” represented point-of-interest № 56, the Forest Hills Multi-Use Trail.

But what of the “sunshine over upper case A with an line over top of it” symbol?

No idea.

I searched online in vain.

I looked in the Prince Edward Island Visitors Guide for clues.

I phoned 1-800-565-7421, but the friendly agent there had no idea.

As a last resort, I sought out Hubert MacIsaac, Compliance Signage Officer with the province’s tourism department. Hubert, it turns out, is one of the friendliest public servants you’ll ever meet.

And after I emailed him Roger’s photo he quickly got back to me with this helpful signage key:

Prince Edward Island Tourism Signage Key

It turns out that Roger had encountered the symbol for “Day Adventure,” the symbolic representation of which confounds me: is it a happy picnic table person enjoying the sun, having an adventure in daylight?

As near as I can tell, using Google Image Search as my guide, this symbol is unique to Prince Edward Island – perhaps unique to eastern Prince Edward Island.

And it is not alone in its mysterious quality.

Referencing the chart above, one wonders why the symbol for “Farm Market” (№ 55) is of a lobster and a fish trapped inside a cabin.

Or why № 32, Botanical Garden, presumably an outdoor attraction, is represented by a flower inside a house.

Would tourists from away, in search of a bottle of slivovice, know that the symbol of the stylized “PEILCC” (№ 46) means “liquor store”?

Are their really that many “Iron Works” (№ 54) on the Island that a symbol needs to be dedicated to them? And can you really hold an anvil in your hand like that?

And wouldn’t symbol № 64, “Distillery,” be more appropriate for symbolizing time travel?

Symbols are useful when they transcend language and allow for quicker communication than words allow; if Roger, an experienced cartographic expert, couldn’t deduce the meaning, then perhaps it’s time for a change?