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larry quotes david:
    > that [VF > MLTeX] presumably was Knuth's opinion at the
    > time, mltex predates vf, doesn't it?

and responds:
    There are no grounds to presume.  Knuth went to great pains to assert
    Fuchs' priority (over Adobe Inc, J. Warnock?) in the introduction of the
    VF concept.

the initial need for vf was to overcome restrictions of certain
typesetting machines, in particular the alphatype crs, which
couldn't cope with glyphs larger than a certain size (so, for
example, the summation had to be set from two pieces) or which
were particularly deep (as are the radical signs in tex's
extension font).  the first issue of tugboat containing material
set on the alphatype appeared in 1981.

vf wasn't adopted into general use until much later -- 1990 was
when the "virtual fonts, more fun for grand wizards" article
appeared in tugboat.

so, in the sense that david intended (i believe), mltex does
predate vf, since michael ferguson's first tugboat article on
the subject appeared in 1985.
                                                        -- bb