GERMAN CAR LICENSE PLATE WITH THE TYPEFACE FALSCHUNGSERSCHWERENDE SCHRIFT

c.1980, 10 x 46 cm

Born awkwardly between eras — drawn by hand in order to be better read by machines — the fälschungserschwerende Schrift bears the marks of both 19th-century guild-enshrined handcraft and 20th-century anonymous automation. And like any technology, it is bound by the political determinants of its design: while its original “tamper-proof ” premise may have proved a Macguffin, these weird-looking letters are an early product of our contemporary surveillance state. What reads to us as a clumsy lack of formal continuity is exactly what makes it legible to a computer. It is an alphabet whose defining characteristic is precisely that it has no defining characteristic, other than having no defining characteristic.

(“Fälschungserschwerende Schrift,” Benjamin Tiven, Bulletins of The Serving Library #3, 2012)