Computer Fonts-An Important Tool for Mass Communication

Keywords: Fonts in a word processor, browser, university’s responsibility and government regulation.

    A couple of days ago I purchased a Compaq PC. It contains Microsoft Works 7.0. I was amazed that this popular word processor does not contain common scientific symbols like Planck’s constant S. Lack of scientific fonts is the major drawback of Microsoft word processors. When someone purchases a word processor, he uses it as the tool to express his ideas. If a student submits his homework through a computer file but his teacher does not have the same set of fonts stored in his computer, then it may become difficult for him to grade the homework. Thus, if a word processor company fails to provide enough fonts, it only shows that the company lacks the vision of facilitating mass communication. In effect, they are coaxing a consumer into handing over their savings for a toy typewriter. Professors at universities often need to exchange their scientific ideas. If their computers use different sets of fonts, how can they communicate with each other? Thus, if a school's computers fail to provide enough fonts for scientific writing, then the school is effectively cutting people's tongues and making them dumb.

    A computer is able to put a certain character onto the screen only if its control panel's font file contains that type of font. Suppose you create a file with WordPerfect, and later, buy a new computer that has Microsoft Works. Then the new computer cannot correctly interpret the special characters in your old file until you download WordPerfect onto your new computer. If you install both word processors in your computer, then you can enjoy both sets of fonts by using either word processor because both sets of fonts have been downloaded into the font file of your computer's control panel.

    Next, through my web publishing experience I must discuss browsers. If I use Internet Explorer 6.0 to preview my FrontPage publications, it always interprets the special characters correctly while Netscape 7.0 does not. Thus, the choice of browser also affects the images displayed on a web page.

    Pretty soon e-publishing will phase in and replace publishing in book form. The government must adopt standard fonts for public use and, thereby, regulate word processor companies. Otherwise, every time a consumer purchases a new computer, he will panic because he is not sure whether his old files can still be used in his new computer. If a government keeps allowing each software company to develop independent font sets, then the dream of web mass communication will remain far-off.