Re: ISO/IEC 10646 versus Unicode

From: Marion Gunn (
Date: Thu Jul 18 2002 - 06:36:45 EDT

Dear Ed,

Thank you for your lovely long and private e-mail, which I shall not
quote on the list, only referring to its usefulness in prompting me to
write this msg to the list, in supplement to my rather blunt note of yesterday.

EGT was one of the first companies to give (almost) unqualified support
to the setting up of Unicode. Subscribers to list 10646@ will recall
that fact (at that time, I was already interested in 10646, and was
attending conferences alone, at which I tried to convince others
involved in standards/implementations that 8859-1 was not enough to
satisfy the immediate and urgent community and commercial needs of my
own company).

A those conferences, I found myself among people whose ‘vision’, if you
could call it that, was just about limited to persuading everyone,
everywhere to ‘stick to ASCII’. When it became clear that 10646 was
getting unwieldy, EGT took a 2-pronged approach, consisting of
establishing new Irish National Standards and adding to the 8859-
series, which proved a lot more productive than trusting to 10646 alone
(both of which aims EGT successfully achieved).

The immediate attraction ang great advantage of Unicode’s vision was its
simplicity/focus: after an unsteady and argumentative start, its
founders committed Unicode to the IMPLEMENTATION of10646, and became
very specific (loud) about not calling it a STANDARD (note to newcomers
- check out the archives of the relevant lists). We could all see that
there was little chance that 10646 could succeed without big business
behind it, and without addressing (which WG2 alone could not do)
techreport/implementational aspects of 10646, which became the
responsibility of Unicode (which made us all very happy).

I, for one, am still a believer in the vision of Unicode, and still
monitor/support its mailing list/other activities, and hope to live long
enough to see it succeed, although I have to admit to getting so very
many things wrong about Unicode in the past: I saw it as another ECMA,
only less institutional (wrong), I thought, for example, that
involvement in it would cost EGT very little, in terms of working hours
(wrong) and in terms of money (wrong), and I expected the ad hoc Uncode
consortium itself to voluntarily disband in 3-5 years (wrong again)
having successfully fulfilled its brief of producing implementations of
10646 with flying colours (again wrong, as it has yet to do that).

When, after all the years of receiving Irish support, I saw Unicode’s
2002 conference in Dublin being advertised as more of a showcase for
German than native interests, I decided not to attend, but that does not
mean any withdrawal of EGT’s initial and longstanding support of
Unicode, in principal (although it seems to have produced only one thing
to date, viz., a book called ‘The Unicode Standard’ (where I expected to
read ‘Implementation’).

While I regret the actual perentage of time/money invested by my company
in Unicode over the years, I have no regrets at all as to our decision
to support Unicode, as an implementation of 10646, and I still expect to
see its benefits, in terms of platform-independent, no-cost applications
accrue to EGT and others at community level, in whichever local
communities survive to witness that.

cc:, 2002-07-18

Marion Gunn * E G T (Estab.1991) vox: +353-1-2839396 *
27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn; Baile an Bhóthair; Contae Átha Cliath; Éire

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