Eight characters is not enough to unambiguously represent all fonts. To do that, we have to allow ourselves arbitrarily long names. Although we certainly cannot use such names for the files themselves, we could still use them in TeX documents given a simple mapping file, as discussed below.
At the moment, most implementations of TeX look up a TFM file (as
part of the
\font command), by searching for a file with the name
given by the user (possibly in any of series of directories). But if we
looked TFM names up first in another file (or set of files),
which specifies the actual filename, the fontname given in the TeX
source file could be almost anything at all, of any length.
In version 5.851d of Web2c, I implemented this mapping file. Each file
`texfonts.map' in a search path is read for abbreviations. The file
has a straightforward format: each line specifies the filename and the
TeX name for one font, separated by whitespace. Extra information on
the line is ignored; then more information could be specified for the
benefit of DVI-reading programs in the same file. Comments start with
% and continue to the end of the line.
Besides allowing long names, this sort of mapping file has other benefits. TeX source or DVI files can be more easily transported, because the font names in a particular file can be made work on every system. Also, when combined with a consistent naming scheme, macros could be written to access any of a number of fonts. Right now, each font family has to have specialized macros written to deal with it.
Incidentally, Professor Knuth has approved this as a legitimate "system-dependent" extension; a TeX with such a feature can still be called "TeX".
Once we allow ourselves long names, we can construct a naming scheme to handle arbitrary fonts without much difficulty. Here is one proposal, based on the X Window System font naming conventions.
The supplier is the usual
Autologic, etc., as
meaning the rest of the name is nonstandard. If the supplier is
missing, i.e., the name starts with a
-, "public domain" is
assumed. For fonts made by individuals, the initials of the designer
would probably make a good supplier.
The family is
Times or whatever.
Everything else is optional. The
-- before the size lets
one specify a name with, say, a weight and variants, but then skip the
width and encoding, but still be able to
give a size.
The weight and width are as described earlier.
If there is more than one variant, they are separated with some character other than `-', say `=':
The encoding is what Metafont calls the
font_coding_scheme---the layout of the characters in the font.
For example, `Cork' or `ISOLatin1' or `AdobeAlternate'.
Names are case-sensitive, for consistency with the rest of TeX and with PostScript, etc. Spaces cannot be used in the name, to make it easier for TeX to parse. Likewise, characters with default category codes other than 11 (letter) or 12 (other) should not be used.
Another possibility is to forget all the above, and simply use the vendor's name (perhaps prefixed by the vendor): `Adobe-Times-Roman', say.