Making letters and numbers appear pretty, rounded, and anti-aliased on a screen is much harder than you would think - you only need to look at the different methods and styles of font anti-aliasing in various graphical environments (and its supporters... Always the supporters...) to realise that it's never perfect - far from it, in fact. The funny thing is though, this struggle to put a round peg in a square hole (what rendering fonts with pixels actually is) is a lot older than you'd think.
Jonathan Hoefler, of Hoefler & Frere-Jones, has dug up an example of pixel-based font rendering from 1567, found in an embroidery guide written by Giovanni Ostaus.
As Hoefler explains:
While not dealing with pixels in a technical sense (as in, digital imaging), Ostaus did effectively work with the same limitations, and had to take the same arguments into account when designing this typeface as his modern colleagues in digital typography do. Simply fascinating.