Re: A basic question on encoding Latin characters

From: James E. Agenbroad (
Date: Fri Sep 24 1999 - 09:32:23 EDT

On Thu, 23 Sep 1999, Kenneth Whistler wrote:
> >
> As Rick pointed out, the issue you are getting at is somewhat
> indirectly hinted at. If the issue is, as many have wondered, whether
> the Unicode Standard really is "complete" for Latin, despite the
> non-appearance in its charts of <name your favorite accented Latin
> letter for Foovian here>, then the answer has been stated in the
> Unicode Standard since version 1.0 (p. 10, 1991):
> "The Unicode standard allows dynamic composition of accented forms..."
> We have been saying this for 10 years now (8 in print)--it is just
> that until recently many people just simply refused to believe
> that software could actually work that way.
                                              Friday, September 24, 1999
Believe it:
Some pre-Unicode(tm) history may be of interest. Since 1967 (yes, sixty-
seven) library software has used separately encoded diacritics and
dynamically composed them above or below the letter they modified.
IBM built a 'ALA print train' for a line printer with each diacritic on a
separate 'slug'. (ALA is the American Library Association.) It was used to
print acceptable catalog cards; it was slower than other printing but it
worked. I think multiple diacritics with a single letter (e.g. Viet-
namese) did not work well with the line printer but they did with photo-
composition. The character set was designed with separately encoded
diacritics in part because transliteration of other writing system used so
many uncommon letter + diacritic combinations; with very few additions
this character set is still in use. (It is now called ANSEL for
American National Standard Extended Latin alphabet coded character
set for bibliographic use (ANSI Z39.47).) Work on adopting Unicode to
library uses is progressing.

          Jim Agenbroad ( )
     The above are purely personal opinions, not necessarily the official
views of any government or any agency of any.
Phone: 202 707-9612; Fax: 202 707-0955; US mail: I.T.S. Dev.Gp.4, Library
of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20540-9334 U.S.A.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:20:53 EDT