Re: ISO/IEC 10646 versus Unicode

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Fri Jul 19 2002 - 15:12:26 EDT

James Agenbroad asked:

> JEA: To clarify, could some one say when the ISO 10646 effort began? Does
> it antedate Ed Hart's "ASCII and EBCDIC: Character set and code issues in
> systems application architecture" published by SHARE in June 1989? From
> its preface: "This activity started as a result of a challenge from the
> Human Factors Project at the SHARE 67 meeting in August, 1986."

Yes, it did antedate that.
> In ISO-IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 N619R Date: 7 January 1991: "Document Register:
> N 1 Register of documents tabled at Kyoto and ad-hoc meeting
> N 2 Draft agenda of Kyoto ad-hoc meeting
> N 3 Initial membership and mailing list
> N 4R WG2 program of work (=97/2 N1436) and goals (=97/2 N1436 Annex)"
> I do not have these early WG2 documents which might have dates.

Nor does Mike Ksar, the current convenor, apparently. I don't
think WG2 early on had a very good sense of its own history, and
the early convenors, Peter Fenwick and then Jerry Anderson, don't
seem to have passed on complete information. Even the document register
doesn't contain any dates for early documents (as you can see above),
and the official WG2 website doesn't maintain any information or
history about the early stages of the project.

However, from the document register, you can divine the following
about the earliest meetings:

0. Kyoto ad-hoc meeting
1. Geneva
2. Turin
3. London
4. London (February, 1986)
5. London (June, 1986)

If you guess 4 months between meetings, that backs up Geneva to
approximately February, 1985, and the Kyoto ad-hoc meeting must
have been in 1984. That is consistent with a 1983 X3L2 document
being distributed as part of WG2 N6.

Maybe some of the oldtimers will have exact records of when those
earliest meetings took place.

And for goodness sake, if you are one of those oldtimers who
participated in character encoding standardization in the 70's
and 80's, and are about to retire, don't shred the remaining
documents you do have about this. Eventually some historians
of technology are going to be very interested in just how all
of this got started.


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