Re: Your Message Forwarded

From: Edward Cherlin (
Date: Mon Aug 19 1996 - 07:41:32 EDT

Timothy Huang wrote:
>Dear Edward,
>Well, the current available codings (GB, JIS, KIS,
>CNS, Unicode, etc.) to an user can be explained to the Western coding
>experts, if I used the following scenario:
>Let's assume, when the English letters were coded, the "experts" did a
>"great" statistic and found that letter "x" and "z" were used only in
>neglectable percentages. Thus, these two letters are not coded in the
>final coding standard. Now, if you have to use this kind of computer,
>what kind of reactions will you have? Yes, the "experts" would heard
>your complaints and promised to have a new solution "very soon". Do you
>know different people define "very soon" very differently? As in Taiwan,
>this "very soon" can mean 12 years. When you want to use your computer
>to write a letter to a friend, and find out that your computer which
>costed you a great deal of money, can not even type out his friend's
>name. At this moment, the most important thing is not "Mr. Godot is
>coming very soon", but a real solution. We just heard "the wolf is
>coming" one too many times.

As I said recently, that is pretty much what did happen in many cases. For
example, Spanish does not use 'w', so English-language publications in
Spain have to improvise. Someone once went to the trouble of writing a
story in English without any 'w's in it just so it could be typeset

In English, we have suffered from several generations of 6-bit, 7-bit, and
8-bit characters, none of which was adequate. This has been going on for
more than 40 years. The 6-bit characters omitted lower case alphabetics.
The 7-bit characters omitted most punctuation and all of the ligatures, and
improperly unified the hyphen, en-dash, em-dash, and minus sign. They also
unified lowercase 'x' with times, and slash '/' with the missing division
sign. 8-bit character sets are better. They include a wider range of
punctuation, the dashes, the accented letters for Western European
languages, and a few ligatures. They still have no proper minus sign or
multiplication or division signs, although those are available in the
Symbol set, which in turn is totally inadequate for mathematics above the
high-school level.

A good English-language Latin alphabet font for a typesetter has about 500
glyphs. We could argue about precisely which ones should represent distinct
characters as long as we agree that computers still don't handle English
correctly. Unicode is our only hope, so let's fix it and get it implemented
rather than moaning about it any more.

Edward Cherlin Helping Newbies to become "knowbies" Point Top 5%
Vice President of Web sites
NewbieNet, Inc. Everything should be made as simple as possible, __but no simpler__. Albert Einstein

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