ZX-Origins - free 8-bit fonts for games

I started designing fonts around 1987 on an 8-bit Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Many years later because of my active involvement in the Spectrum emulation scene Paul Dunn asked me to provide some fonts for his excellent BASIN Sinclair BASIC for Windows. My interest in 8x8 monospaced fonts was suitably rekindled and I ended up delivering about 60 - some even extracted from my original +3 disk images.

I’ve wanted to get these fonts online earlier but the raw files are only of use to BASIN users or those suitably familiar with the convoluted process and tools to get them into a Spectrum or emulator. Even trying to use them on Windows was a pain given that TrueType is all about scalable fonts and getting them pixel-perfect is quite the endeavor.

Fellow typographer and Spectrum fan Paul van der Laan gave me some suitable tips for pixel-perfect fonts at specific multiples (8px on Windows) and I put together an automated pipeline using a modified version of John Elliot’s psftools which converts the original ZX font to PSF and then to BDF. Getting to TrueType TTF involved FontLab 5 Studio and some Python scripting and the various conversion process and uploads were taken care of with some bash scripting.

It’s always hard to get a true feel for a font from a simple run of letters so I created a simulated preview mechanism that re-rendered some hand-picked screens from Sinclair, Commodore, Amiga, Atari and BBC computers to showcase each one. If your browser supports HTML5 canvas you’ll see these! You can also drag any raw Spectrum font file such as those created by BASIN to any of my ZX-Origins pages to see your own font rendered with these samples.

The uploads are now mostly complete - there are 78 typefaces and well over 120 actual fonts once you include the variations, styles and weights that some typefaces have. This number may increase from time to time if and when I finish off styles in my _incomplete folder, resurrect some abandoned ones (sorry Unwanted Attention), or get inspired for something entirely new.

So without further ado head over to ZX Origins and grab a font or two for your latest 8-bit retro game!

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