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Ever since Chicago designers Carlos Segura and Scott Smith placed an ad in Ray-Gun offering a free font kit from their new digital foundry T-26, their fax machine has droned like a broken car alarm.

"I want them ... I need them ... I must have them," pleads one fax from Canada. "Please," begs an Oregonian, "send whatever it is you send to slobs like me. Fonts. Whatever. You may never know how much it is appreciated."

With fax requests humming in from as far off as Australia and Japan, this six-month old company is strapped to keep up with orders while building its library, which now offers close to 100 fonts.

The idea for T-26 evolved last year, when Segura and Smith met while freelancing and began plotting a business venture together. To their own letterforms they added those of students and designers, many of whom they discovered through America Online.

And while T-26 gets its name from the number of letters in the traditional alphabet, its fonts look more like a cross between Ray-Gun and Emigre fonts, including a spidery font called BrainDead-Caps. And while its erratic student fonts might have prompted Pentagram principal Kit Henrichs to call the library a "large, if uneven, volume of innovative work" in How magazine, Smith stresses that the fonts are "not handcuffed to tradition. That's not taking away from the classic fonts, but they're not the barometer anymore."

T-26's prices even reflect a collegian's budget, with 40 percent student discounts, generous typographer royalties and a license to use the fonts on 10 printers. "Everyone who crosses our path thinks we're insane and giving the fonts away," Segura says. "But it's put us on the map."

T-26 is betting on the success of its fonts with two CD-ROM line extensions available later this year: Thickface, a catalog of background art, and Limechunk, a library of original sounds, some of which are manipulated voices of people ordering kits off T-26's answering machine. As for those crazy faxes, Smith assures they're not going to waste: they're negotiating a book deal to

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