Re: Chromatic font research

From: William Overington (
Date: Tue Jun 25 2002 - 10:03:55 EDT

Marco Cimarosti asked the following.

>How is an imaginary test case preferable to the real cases which were
>already proposed? These were:
>1) Black Ethiopic paragraph separator (U+1368) decorated with little red
>dots (suggested by Peter Constable).
>2) Arabic letters with black stems and red dots (suggested by me).
>Both chromatic combinations are actually used (although not in current
>modern usage), and they are representative of the whole issue, because they
>map in two different ways to the usual monochrome display:
>- In the Ethiopic case (1), the red dots are just decorative, so they
>be dropped in monochrome display.
>- In the Arabic case, just the color of the red dots is decorative, but the
>dots themselves are part of the letter, so they should be retained also in
>monochrome display.

I am not knowledgable about Ethiopic manuscripts or Arabic letters. As many
of the uses have a cultural and sometimes religious significance I felt that
it would be respectful to those situations to use a purely ornamental
example for experiments, one with which I am familiar because of the use of
metal type ornaments with a hand press as part of a hobby interest in
letterpress printing. My feeling was that if the technology could be
produced, then, once soundly based using experimental examples, the
technology could be employed in a correct cultural and religious context by
those with the appropriate knowledge to apply the technology correctly in
those situations.

>Moreover, Peter's and my examples, by using existing characters, do not
>require any "PUA agreement" -- or is it mandatory to use the PUA for just

No, it is not mandatory to use the Private Use Area for everything. I was
here using it to produce a character for specific research purposes. Given
that, surely it is respectful and polite of me to place it in the Private
Use Area rather than for me to have suggested some adaption of a regular
Unicode symbol in a way that would perhaps not be compatible with the
Unicode specification. Unfortunately what I thought was my thoughtful and
considerate correctness in using the Private Use Area for the purpose needed
is seen as in some way questionable. I cannot understand what is seen as
questionable about defining a character in the Private Use Area in order to
help facilitate some research.

Also, I had not understood the two cases which you explain above. I realize
now that some way of indicating that a colour should be mapped to null
rather than to black in the event of a chromatic rendering system for a
chromatic font not being available.

I am only recently learning how to produce fonts. I have three experimental
fonts at early stages. One is text with ligatures such as ct and so on.
One is a chess font, including the extra pieces for the historical variant
Carrera's Chess. The other is a font for artistic use in graphic art. I
am learning a lot from trying to produce them. I am hopeful that chromatic
font technology has now reached a gel level whereby it is no longer seen as
something which is only hypothetical but as a technology which is now as
likely to be implemented within the next five years as not. My experience
with inventions and the inventive process is that it is quite possible that
major corporations are now actively considering the possibilities for
chromatic fonts and that chromatic fonts may possibly now be regarded as
leading edge research which may soon become state of the art. Naturally,
businesses do not make public statements about everything that they are
researching in case they wish to file patent applications on what they

Also I feel that whereas chromatic font technology could be very usefully
applied to transcribing ancient manuscripts and I hope that that is done, in
order for it to gain widespread enthusiasm and for the development of
desktop publishing packages which can handle it, there need to be some
mainstream computing applications available where using chromatic font
technology will give that extra flair to people's use of computers.
Defining one or more Private Use Area codes gives people something to
consider and, if they so choose, to apply.

William Overington

25 June 2002

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