September 09, 2004

Type Cast

When I entered college, in 1981, my alma mater had just started a computer science department. The equipment was fairly revolutionary in its day; a DEC PDP11/44 running UNIX. Jamestown College was a very early adopter, in the great scheme of things.

One of the big selling points of UNIX at the time was that, if you wanted to learn a very complex dot-inset command language, you could use "Roff", a "simple" text formatting program that could do very basic page layout; setting margins, spacing, that sort of thing. The learning curve was brutally hard (although I learned it - boys love toys). At the end of the day, if you did everything (and I do mean everything) right, your term paper would come out (from a dot-matrix line printer or an NEC Spinwriter, basically a daisy-wheel typewriter hooked up to the computer) looking as if a very competent typist had typed it. Assuming you used spellcheck properly.

If you read further through the manual (or the UNIX "manpages"), you learned of the next big thing - "TRoff", or "Typesetting Roff". Designed to work with the day's state of the art keylining and typesetting equipment - the type found at large printers, for things like books and brochures - it was an order of magnitude more complex, giving the user access to radical innovations like proportional fonts and curved apostrophes and quotation marks.

Stuff we take for granted today. Freeware word processors and downloadable fonts have made typesetting, once (and in the world of professional printing and publication design, still) an art form, into child's play.

Nine years before I entered college, at an air national guard base in Texas - at a time when the military in Europe, to say nothing of the stateside military, was being starved of funding to pay for Vietnam, what do you suppose the odds were that personnel memos were being prepared on that sort of equipment?

As Powerline, Captain Ed and the Freepers all noticed, there's something
fishy about this memo, which was presented on CBS the other night.

A correspondent of Powerline noted earlier

Every single one of the memos to file regarding Bush's failure to attend a physical and meet other requirements is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing (especially in the military), and typewriters used mono-spaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction high-end word processing systems from Xerox and Wang, and later of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were no widespread until the mid to late 90's.

Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang and other systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used mono-spaced fonts. I doubt the TANG had typesetting or high-end 1st generation word processing systems.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively.

Look at the document. Proportional, Times/Roman font. Curved apostrophes and quotation marks. Things that we regard as commonplace now, that were the province of the professional printer back then.

Another Powerline correspondent writes:

2) I also used a Variype machine in 1971. I fooled around with it in my spare time. It was incredibly difficult to set up and use. It was also extremely hard to correct mistakes on the machine. Most small letters used two spaces. Capital letters generally used three spaces. I think letters like "i" may have used one space. Anyway, you can see that this type of machine was piloted by an expert, and it would NEVER be used for a routine memo. A Lt. Colonel would not be able to identify a Varitype machine, let alone use it.

3) US Navy paper at the time was not 8 1/2 x 11. It was 8 x 10 1/2. I believe this was the same throughout the military, but someone will have to check on that. This should show up in the Xeroxing, which should have lines running along the sides of the Xerox copy.

4) I am amused by the way "147 th Ftr.Intrcp Gp." appears in the August 1, 1972 document. It may have been written that way in non-forged documents, but as somone who worked for ComCruDesLant, I know the military liked to bunch things together. I find "147 th" suspicious looking. 147th looks better to me, but the problem with Microsoft Word is that it keeps turning the "th" tiny if it is connected to a number like 147. And finally......

5) MORE DEFINITIVE PROOF OF FORGERY: I had neglected even to look at the August 18, 1973 memo to file. This forger was a fool. This fake document actually does have the tiny "th" in "187th" and there is simply no way this could have occurred in 1973. There are no keys on any typewriter in common use in 1973 which could produce a tiny "th." The forger got careless after creating the August 1, 1972 document and slipped up big-time.

One more question - especially for those of you who were in
the military before the age of ubiquitous computers; does the format of the
date look right? The military has a different format for dates - I won't
say what it is, the better to let an expert tell us.

Experts - by that, I mean I'm throwing it open to you out there. What do
you think?

Posted by Mitch at September 9, 2004 06:27 PM | TrackBack

18 AUG 73

At least that's the way I recall from when I was in the Navy (1986-1989).

Posted by: James Ph. at September 9, 2004 06:41 PM

As an old Wang hand, I remember well the "revolutionary" advances that The late, lamented Dr. An Wang brought to the workplace in the late '70s until at least the mid-eighties when, after the Dr. died, Wang got run over by the PC revolution. I have two old IBM selectric executives with lots of type-balls if someone wants to try to duplicate the fake memos. I hope this story gets the traction it deserves, but at the same time, the ABC poll is pretty big news as well!

Posted by: Wog at September 9, 2004 07:05 PM

PS. I still have alot of Wang gear in my garage in case there are any collectors out their. I also have a couple of NEC 7730 Spinwriters which ran circles around Wangs 2281W daisywheel printers.

Oh, and an orignal IBM PC in working condition :-)

Posted by: wog at September 9, 2004 07:10 PM

Any chance you could re-do the memo on a selectric and scan it?

For comparison sake, I mean?

James: That's the format I thought.

Posted by: mitch at September 9, 2004 07:19 PM

Before you all go winging off into Freeperville, you might want to remember two big things:

1. CBS has gone to document experts to authenticate the documents. Do you really (really?) believe that CBS took forged documents to document experts, and that experts missed the forgery?

2. This one should be easiest for you to understand, but I'll type it in big, bold letters so you can't possibly miss it. NOT EVEN THE BUSH CAMPAIGN DISPUTES THE VERACITY OF THESE DOCUMENTS. Indeed, they're passing them out--so they can dispute content, which is fine.

No, guys, the documents are real. Just because they're bad for your guy doesn't mean you can will them away.

Posted by: Jeff Fecke at September 9, 2004 10:40 PM


Your bias is blinding you to the facts.

Don't feel bad, the same thing happened to Dan Rather!

Posted by: Trudger at September 9, 2004 11:26 PM

It sounds as if ABC and the Washington Post are going with a lot of on-record expert opinion that these are likely forgeries. If so, I would venture that CBS and Rather, salivating over an opportunity to skewer Bush, got a quick opinion regarding signatures, and didn't bother going any further. This really could be a signal event in the old media vs. new media debate; can one imagine the overrated hacks at major media outlets ever again speaking condescendingly about the methods of their upstart competitors? Well, of course, one can imagine it, but it likely will be met with widespread, derisive, laughter.

Posted by: Will Allen at September 9, 2004 11:38 PM

If CBS is so confident, then how come they're conducting an internal investigation now?

Posted by: peter at September 9, 2004 11:39 PM

To Whom it May Concern:

Earlier in this thread, I pooh-poohed the idea that these documents may be forged. Further investigation leads me to believe that this is not the silly idea I originally thought (I expand on this at my blog--if any of you care what a lefty thinks.)

At any rate, I retract my earlier statement. At best, the veracity of these documents is questionable, and CBS should expand on why they believe them to be real. At worst, they are a bad forgery (who the hell forges a 1970's-era document using Word?), and an outright smear.

I'm tired of lies. There are certainly questions about Bush's Guard service--but I don't want to see lies used to further the questioning.

Then again, you on the right were happy to cheer while lie after lie was told about Sen. Kerry's war service; perhaps I should just stick to claiming the docs are real, come Hell or high water.

But I can't; I have to be honest, and honesty compels me to accept that these documents may well prove to be fakes, and I will not be citing them further until they have been authenticated.

Posted by: Jeff Fecke at September 9, 2004 11:40 PM

Jeff: Thanks for the best laugh of the day!

Just so you know, as best I can determine it actually was someone at that first brought up the proportional fonts issue, and said that the documents could be forgeries.

Freepers + Powerline + LGF brings down Dan Rather! Woo Hoo!

Glad you were able to admit you were wrong - you obviously care about your credibility.

Posted by: Steve Meyer at September 10, 2004 12:32 AM

I appreciate your honesty here Jeff, but I think have to open your mind a little bit more to the swift vets story. I have looked at it very closely myself, and none of the supposed refutations of the swift vet story hold any water. We all know now that Kerry gamed the system to get his first purple Heart. He was never in Cambodia, and that the shrapnel in his butt came from his own grenade not a remote control mine.

I would have given him a pass on all of this had he not built his campaign on it.

Posted by: rick at September 10, 2004 02:29 AM



But these things aren't matters of "Let's all be nice and debate the issues". CBS foisted a forgery on us (it now appears).

But the Swifties allegations are both overwhelmingly factual and (unlike the TANG story, true or false) bear directly on Kerry's actual record which was also Kerry's key campaign plank.

Posted by: mitch at September 10, 2004 07:35 AM


I admire your ability to investigate a little and correct your position.

Like others here, I suggest that if you applied that same open mind to the Swift Vets charges, especially the various Cambodia stories Kerry has floated, (Christmas, lucky hat, gun running) you would find them true as well.

Like you, I am tired of lies.

Here's to the truth!

Posted by: Trudger at September 10, 2004 08:24 AM

By the way, Jeff - I plead, entreat and beg of you - PLEASE change your CSS so that it doesn't appear as white text on a white background in Firefox/Mozilla!

I have to select text to read it on your blog, and selecting doesn't make the text sticky, so it fades right back to white on unselect. It's not totally unreadable - just takes a lot more effort than it should.

Get a CSS book, or fix a tag, or something!

Posted by: meeotch at September 10, 2004 08:50 AM

Not to patronize, but good on ye, Jeff. Now if you and others will examine that easy reliance on freeper stereotypes for discrediting ideas that you don't like, we might actually get somewhere.

Posted by: brian jones at September 10, 2004 09:56 AM

I think the big story here, nay, the BIGGEST story here, is that this has given everyone the necessary excuse to write "Wang" while being totally serious and not cracking a huge smile. Some of the best quotes in this entry and ensuring comment thread alone include:

"Even the Wang and other systems that were dominant in the mid 80's"

My, don't you have a high opinion of yourself in the 80s?

"As an old Wang hand"

It doesn't matter if it's old, so long as it still works.

"I still have alot of Wang gear in my garage"

Not something you necessarily want to brag about, is it?

"Wang got run over by the PC revolution"

Ouch. Did it require stitches?

Anyway, don't mind me. My mind has been stuck at the age of 16 for the last 13 years.

Posted by: Ryan at September 10, 2004 11:33 AM

I worked part-time after school in the Computer Services at Clark Air Base in the Philippines in 1982. My dad was a tech rep, and I was in High School, and was participating in an extracurricular activity that allowed me to work a couple of hours a week as sort of job training. I also took a computer class my freshman (1981) year.
We used punch cards for our computer class, Mitch. The computers at one of the largest air bases in the world were obsolete in every way from the computers that were just then starting to be talked about in the news. Stories of computers like the Commodore 64, and shelves full of Brother word processors that were outrageously expensive and still came nowhere near the quality of the current word processing systems. People are forgetting how far we have come in so little time. At no point did I ever see a "modern" word processor on an Air Force desk.I was lucky to find a ball-driven typewriter on an Air Force desk when I would go in and have my base ID renewed. And what was really funny about those base ID's, is the way the numbers always seemed to be out of line. In 1981. At Clark Air Base, which was huge and vital to our Asian defense.

Posted by: themarkman at September 10, 2004 09:29 PM