re:Multi-Lingual Project Gutenberg (was: Unicode plain text)

From: John Fieber (
Date: Tue May 27 1997 - 21:52:40 EDT

On Tue, 27 May 1997, Pierre Lewis <>

> In message "re:Multi-Lingual Project Gutenberg (was: Unicode plain text)",
> '' writes:
> > > Es lebe plain text! (long live ~)
> >
> > I find this a tragic position. Before unicode, the common
> > denominator for cross-platform data transfer was 7 bit ASCII.
> Second, Unicode is something more or less orthogonal to the notion of
> plain text. So I don't really understand your comment above. Plain text
> does not mean 7-bit ASCII. It could just as well mean UTF-8 Unicode.

From other replies I've received I guess I wasn't clear about my
point. Within the domain of "plain text" Unicode is doing a lot
to raise the common denominator. This is great, but a sentiment
has been expressed in this thread that higher level protocols are
a hopeless mess and if you want portability, stick with plain
text. In the near term that may be a reality but Unicode was
born out of frustration with the existing mess of character
encoding standards and a determination to make things better.

I was simply making the observation that swearing off high level
protocols because they are messy now seems very out of character
with the spirit of Unicode.

To clarify another posting, I did not say or mean to imply that
higher level protocols should be addressed by the Unicode
standard. That would be a Bad Thing for numerous reasons I'm
sure you can all figure out.

> Third, for all the great things that can be said for SGML, HTML, XML,
> and <whatever>ML, it still remains that plain text is the most portable
> format, the simplest to deal with (on all platforms), and the only one
> that is likely to be legible in 30 years. For some things, it's still
> the best solution.

Explain to me how SGML is less portable than plain text? If you
don't have something that understand the tags, any reasonable
text editor can strip them out leaving you with plain text. You
don't need anything fancier than a text editor to create and view
SGML documents. You are no *worse* off using SGML than you would
be using plain text, but chances are good that you will be better
off. In 30 years, SGML will still be legible because, unlike
other markup schemes, it is a public standard not bound to a
particular transient software product. This is why you find SGML
in places like the aircraft industry where documents have active
lifespans longer than most software companies.


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