Calligrapher monk Robert Palladino, who inspired Mac typography, dies at 83

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Rev. Robert Palladino, whose work as a master calligrapher influenced a young Steve Jobs and subsequently the typography of Apple's first Mac computers, died on Friday at the age of 83.




Father Palladino, a Roman Catholic priest who learned the art of calligraphy as a Trappist monk, inspired the transformative typefaces used in Apple's first machines, and by extension the modern personal computer. Prior to Mac, computers and operating systems used fonts and typesets that boasted all the artistic appeal of an IBM punchcard.

As reported by The New York Times, Palladino met Jobs during his tenure at Reed College in Portland, Ore., where he taught calligraphy from 1969 to 1984. Jobs audited Palladino's class after dropping out from Reed in 1972.

In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Jobs talked about the impact Palladino's teachings.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later.

While not mentioned by Jobs, Palladino was consulted on the creation of Mac's first Greek letters. In an interview with the National Catholic Register in 2012, Palladino looked back on his time with the tech guru, saying, "He took my class and became very interested in letter forms. [...] He came back a year or so later and said he was interested in my Greek alphabet."

While he had a hand in shaping the personal computing revolution, Palladino never once owned or used a computer, The Times said.
anantksundaram

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,049member
    What an amazing story.

    Perhaps a cliche, but it's truly the butterfly effect in computing.....
    pscooter63aaronjicoco3chiamoreckmanfred zornGTRownsUuraharaargonaut
  • Reply 2 of 13
    dmdevdmdev Posts: 31member
    Indeed. How weird that some of us live to 83, and some live only to 56.
  • Reply 3 of 13
    aaronjaaronj Posts: 1,595member
    This is one great story, as has been said.  

    It's truly amazing how one life affects another, and then millions of others.  This is a beautiful story, even if it is one about a death.  I hope he rests in peace.
    iosenthusiastGTRownsUargonaut
  • Reply 4 of 13
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,789member
    This is the reason I’m an Apple user, the intersection of art and technology. Microsoft, Google, Samsung have no class. Jobs was right.
    calichiamoreckmanfred zorniosenthusiastGTRownsUargonaut
  • Reply 5 of 13
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    That's why people who don't get Apple's foray into fashion don't really get Apple, and also don't really get what Fashion is, intersection of Art and Identity.

    Apple did Art - Tech - Identity intersection; going into fashion is basically going into a business they were already in.

    The whole 1984 commercial, was about tech being used to enrich life, reflect it, not subjugate it.

    I think it's the kind of disregard for art in general when it relates to tech (which is reflected here) and in society in general;

    This is part of a general anti-intellectual current, except this one mainly expressed by a particular type of eggheads that are fan of Android/Microsoft.
    edited March 2016 netmageJanNLcalichiamoreckiosenthusiastargonaut
  • Reply 6 of 13
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,611member
    Wonder if his surname's similarity to renaissance calligrapher Giambattista Palatino influenced his career choice.
  • Reply 7 of 13
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,049member
    foggyhill said:

    This is part of a general anti-intellectual current, except this one mainly expressed by a particular type of eggheads that are fan of Android/Microsoft.
    Hate to pile on, but it is precisely that which gave us the Clippy, the Zune and Milk Music.

    Whatever makes them happy, I suppose......
    calimoreckiosenthusiastGTRownsUargonaut
  • Reply 8 of 13
    thedx8thedx8 Posts: 1member
    Hearing where the design influences for Apple originated, especially when tracked back to a single person, time, and place is amazing.
    calimoreckiosenthusiastargonaut
  • Reply 9 of 13
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    R.I.P. and fu*k the copycats.
    GTRownsUargonaut
  • Reply 10 of 13
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,840member
    I still find it amazing the influence this man had on computing, thanks to Steve Jobs being there to receive that influence.
    icoco3moreckmanfred zornGTRownsUargonaut
  • Reply 11 of 13
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,458member
    I still find it amazing the influence this man had on computing, thanks to Steve Jobs being there to receive that influence.
    I love stories like this, those unsung heroes that shaped the world we live in yet, we do not know who they are or were.  How many are out there who had a major influence on someone who is in the spotlight of history yet go unheard of.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 12 of 13
    So... he never blogged?
  • Reply 13 of 13
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,209moderator
    icoco3 said:
    I still find it amazing the influence this man had on computing, thanks to Steve Jobs being there to receive that influence.
    I love stories like this, those unsung heroes that shaped the world we live in yet, we do not know who they are or were.  How many are out there who had a major influence on someone who is in the spotlight of history yet go unheard of.
    There will be hundreds of influential sources that even the people who were influenced by them wouldn't remember. There were hundreds of people whose work went into the original systems but aren't mentioned much, including some of the people who joined Apple from Xerox and there's Susan Kare who designed the typefaces but they have been written about more recently. Early computer systems like the Xerox Alto and Star shown here:



    had the ability to use proportionally spaced fonts but shipped with very few fonts. That one has Classic, Modern, Titan, Bold, Letter Gothic, Scientific, Scientific Thin and Xerox fonts, most of which appear to be monospaced. It had a proportional font in the UI, the letter 'i' takes up a smaller width than the other characters. These machines were geared at businesses and hit a very high price point. Some of the people involved with those machines went to work at Apple to develop the bitmapped UI of the Mac and Lisa.

    Susan Kare had the role of designing the Mac's proportionally spaced fonts, which were given the names of major cities: Athens, Chicago, Geneva, London, New York, San Francisco, Venice. London looks very much like the kind of style a calligrapher would use:

    http://www.storiesofapple.net/the-first-fonts-of-the-macintosh.html



    https://multimediaman.wordpress.com/category/graphical-user-interface/

    "Others at Apple Computer, due to their limited perspective on the utility of the personal computer, could not relate to Steve Jobs’ insistence on the font library; they considered it a distracting personal obsession. In his biography of Jobs, Walter Isaacson quotes Apple investor and partner Mark Markkula: "I kept saying, 'Fonts?!? Don’t we have more important things to do?'"

    It's not only about being able to recognize the existence of things but their relative importance, to emphasize the creative as much as the technical. This ultimately led to the desktop publishing industry. People like Woz who focused on engineering wanted to push the Apple 3 with its text-based UI. If it had been left up to Xerox pushing machines to businesses and engineers who only cared about technical ability, who knows how long it would have taken for this creative ability to reach a wide audience. Similarly, without people like Robert Palladino who lived their lives dedicated to their art, people don't learn to respect creativity. People only learn this by seeing the results of their work. The people who work at Apple have a similar obsession and it's fortunate that the company is set up in a way to allow them to express that in order to be able to influence billions of others.
    edited March 2016 chiaam8449argonaut
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