Re: Devanagari [was Re: Any web-published rebuttals to criticism?]

From: Adrian Havill (
Date: Thu Jan 09 1997 - 03:53:59 EST

Sandeep Sibal wrote:
> I would like to second this! It would be nice if some of the
> contentious issues were catalogued somewhere. Minutes of meetings
> etc., would be valuable as well. I would suspect that many of the
> thorniest issues arise from languages/scripts that are not Latin
> based, and experts in these areas would probably have their
> criticisms expressed (if at all electronically) in a medium
> that is not English. Pages such as the one you point out are rare.

In regards to the Han character issue, there are actually many
criticisms of Unicode... search for "Unicode" in Yahoo and you'll find
similar pages about Chinese and Unicode. Timothy (Sorry, I forgot his
last name) was quite vocal regarding this on this newsgroup in the past.

While I know nothing about Devanagari, Unicode, especially amongst the
people using languages which use Han characters, suffers from a lot of
bad PR... probably because the amount of people that understand is quite

The previous page I mentioned goes so far as to seem to imply that
Unicode will cause the extinction/bastardization of non-European
languages! He also implies that Unicode was designed by people that know
nothing and/or are insensitive about non-European languages.

Notice the page is translated into Japanese. Lots of negative info about
Unicode (in multiple languages).

In constrast, I find relatively little info rebutting or responding to
this. If you were to ask the average computer-literate Japanese what
they thought of Unicode, they would say this about 80% of the time: "Oh,
you can't mix Chinese and Japanese Kanji together. That's not good."

This is because: a) I can't find or have not read any PRO-articles about
Unicode for Han character-based languages, and b) the Unicode Standard
2.0, and it's similar specs (JIS X 0221--the Japanese version of ISO
10646) are too big, too expensive, and too mind-boggling). For a
developer, it's a valuable resource. For a end-user whos deciding
whether they want a Unicode-environment or not, it's like reading the
Websters Unabridged in order to learn English.

While I'm about to use company plastic to get an "individual membership"
to the Unicode Consortium, I don't think the observation rights, the
minutes, and general distribution lists will answer the about most
peoples doubts in a user-friendly manner.

The Unicode home page needs more than one (or two... French?)
languages... they need a simple multi-lingual Q & A type section for
certain areas, like:

Q: If I use Unicode to do Japanese, will the kanji I type be transformed
into simplified Chinese characters when I send it to a Chinese computer
using Unicode. If they send Simplified Chinese back to me, will the
characters be transformed into Japanese-simplified characters?


Q: What is the chance of Unicode not having the Han character I need for
a current/modern Chinese/Japanese surname/given name/word? Are there
characters I can enter on my JIS/Big5/GB set that I can't enter in

The end-user could care less about the difference between UTF-7 and
UTF-8... "That's for the software houses to fuss with." What a
not-a-small-percentage-of-people are thinking (at least in Japan) is: "I
have to be careful not to buy a computer/OS/software that uses Unicode,
because it won't be compatible with older computers, the Unified fonts
will look awful, and the language won't display properly."

The Consortium is great for those with access to the resources and the
time to exhaustively research it. But they need to provide concise,
brief, easy-to-search, info blurbs in the UN languages that address the
fears of "the average user"--those that can't fork out the money for an
associate or corporate (or even individual) membership. They may not
become a Unicode Consortium member, but they WILL someday have to decide
whether to buy software that uses Unicode in the future.

The UC seem to be relying on the web to automatically promote and fight
for Unicode. But in many countries like Japan, people are hearing more
bad press than good.

Adrian Havill <>    MAIN: +81 (06) 536-6731
S.E., System Planning & Production Division   FAX:  +81 (06) 536-6741

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