VARI-TYPER Headliner Multi-Line 840 - Phototypesetting
I love coming across new things at the museum. When I say new of course I mean new to us. My latest find is the Vari-Typer Headliner. Admittedly I know nothing about this machine beyond having a general idea of how it works and that it was used for phototypesetting. I decided to start looking around the internet for more information about the machine. I have been able to find a great deal about the company, Vari-Typer, but not nearly as much about this specific model. (If you are reading this and can enlighten me to any more details please add to the comments at the bottom of the page.)
The Headliner Multi-Line 840 was considered a composing typewriter. The composing typewriter was used for camera-ready copy in quick-print businesses, small weeklies, and academic publishing where low cost and fast turn around set a higher precedence than quality. The best of these machines were capable of proportional spacing, setting justification, and handling more than one font.
Vari-Typers made professional looking camera-ready masters for offset printing, created by casting photographic type on 35 mm white photo print paper, which was then fed through a tank with photo printing chemicals.
While writing this I realized that the manual that came with our machine is for the Multi-Line 820 while the machine itself is a model 840.
On this unit the character selection is effected by rotation of a rigid plastic disk. Notches of varying depth, located on the edge of the disc, adjust the spacing of each character relative to neighbors. If the body allows, it is possible to obtain several lines superimposed on the strip of paper with a width of 35 mm.
The varitype provides a positive image of the entire text of the body 12 to 72.
The time of exposure and development are automatic and it works in daylight.
ADDENDUM BY ALLEN FROM LONDON, UK
"The Headliner was an adjunct to the Varityper itself, which was a typewriter-style machine having a standard keyboard, but interchangeable fonts (half-moon shaped, not like the IBM golfballs), technically a strike-on composing machine. Type sizes from 6pt to 12pt were available hence the need for the Headliner for larger display work.
Using a special carbon ribbon, the operator would type normally, and the characters would be struck onto whatever paper was in the platen high-quality reproduction paper was the norm.
Most Varitypers had a patented mechanism with which the machine would justify the type (equal left and right). This worked thus: the operator would type it once (while the machine recorded the number of spaces), then typed it again, and in this second phase the machine inserted space between the words in order to fill out (justify) the line.
I am not sure when they stopped being produced probably in the 1980s, when phototypesetting began to predominate. The last models were called 1010 or 1030. The parent company, A&M, moved into to the photosetting market."
Allen, London, UK.
Thank you so much for adding to this Allen -DT