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This is a static archive of the domnit.org blog,
which Lenny Domnitser wrote between 2006 and 2009.

Readibility, a Report from the Humans vs. Robots Front

Kottke points to a discussion on Erik Spiekermann’s blog about the typeface of Germany’s new license plates.

The [typeface is called] FE-Mittelschrift, with FE meaning it is Fälschungs-Erschwert, i.e. difficult to forge

The idea is that the letters and digits look different enough to make it difficult to adjust a license plate with tape or paint. Spiekermann complains that without a consistent look to the typeface, criminals could easily invent their own letterforms, which would fit in as well—or as poorly—as the real ones. Then a commenter writes:

A security expert I show this to points out that the purpose of the change is not for humans, but for automated number-plate scanners.

Right, law enforcement shouldn’t rely on officers correctly identifying typographic details on thousands of plates. Why is a human-readable plate still the only way cars are identified, though? A barcode, which includes a checksum, can’t easily be forged, and an RFID tag can be read more easily and doesn’t have to be mounted on the outside of a car, where it is easy to steal. Granted, RFID has somewhat scary privacy implications, but we can at least have beautifully set license plates with discrete (invisible ink?) barcodes.