The main road from Hamaa to Allepo in Syria actually cuts right through a "tell": you can clearly see how this hill is made up of layers of inhabitation. Curiously, there are black layers with almost regular interfalls. This is the story. From the beginning settlers gradually perfected their adaptation to the environment and so grew their wealth. Until their settlement became far too powerful magnet for the subsisting desert dwellers. Well, the black lines show when the nomads move in, as barbarians who burn down everything. That is the bad news. The good news is, that in the process the bake the clay tablet libraries, thus preserving evidence of writing civilization forever. As the dust settles the newcomers realize the opportunities of their new territory and try to reconstruct the successful civilization they just destroyed. Obviously they miss a lot of clues regarding intricate traditions and rituals. In fact, the emerging new civilization sanitizes the previous one, while it gradually grows as insane as the one it replaced. This process repeated itself many times. As a result each black layer can be associated with a new phase in writing that becomes more and more detached from the intricacies of a particular culture. In the event, the alphabet simply is the outcome of thousands of years of cultural devastation. Against this background one can understand why computing, being totally alphabet- biased, is facing such enormous problems when it is required to deal with writing traditions that have not lost their integration in the civilisation that they are part of.

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23 January 1999, Webmaster