Re: ISO/IEC 10646 versus Unicode

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Mon Jul 22 2002 - 16:11:12 EDT

Dear colleagues,

I was biting my tongue there for a bit, but as this list is both
public and archived, I am afraid that I have little choice but to
respond to Marion Gunn's revisionist history, as it reflects on my
own activities working for the Universal Character Set.

I will begin by reminding readers of this list that I have had no
interest in "EGT" since September 2001, when I ceased to be an
owner-director of that limited company. However, as Marion refers to
the period of time when I *was* involved, it seems to me proper that
I set the record straight.

At 11:36 +0100 2002-07-18, Marion Gunn wrote:

>EGT was one of the first companies to give (almost) unqualified
>support to the setting up of Unicode.

This could not possibly be considered to be true. As told in the UTC meetings are counted
from February 1989. I didn't come to Ireland until September 1989.
The Unicode Consortium was officially incorporated in January 1991.
"EGT" wasn't incorporated until February 1991.

Further, although "EGT" did become aware of the 10646 ballot in time
to influence Ireland's vote on the DIS in June 1991, it was afterward
that "EGT" made contact with the Unicode Consortium, when I wrote a
number of responses to UTR #1 and UTR #2: Burmese (April 1993),
Ethiopic (May 1993), Sinhala and Tibetan (September 1993).

The formal involvement of "EGT" in standards development began with
my attendance of a CEN/TC304 meeting in Paris in 1994.

In October 1994 I attended my first meeting of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2
in San Francisco, and it was there that I first met members of the
Unicode Technical Committee. (Asmus Freytag and I hit it off rather
badly, in the spirit of cautious distrust which was, it has to be
admitted, present in the 10646-vs-Unicode spirit of those times. Now,
of course, we work closely together as co-editors and are fast
friends; I have the honour of being godfather to his daughter

>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).

"EGT" did not propose the development of I.S. 434 (8-bit code for
Ogham) and ISO/IEC 8859-14 (Latin 8, Celtic) because "10646 was
getting unwieldy". I had developed Ogham and Gaelic fonts for use on
8-bit operating systems, and it seemed that support for Celtic text
written with those character sets would be likelier if there were
formal standards available. That is the reason those standards were
developed. I was the editor of both of those standards on behalf of

>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
>thought, for example, that involvement in it would cost EGT very
>little, in terms of working hours (wrong) and in terms of money
>(wrong) [....]

Marion writes about "EGT" as though it were more than the sum of its
parts. From February 1991 to September 2001, in any case, it was
certainly not so; during that period, "EGT" consisted of two people,
myself and Marion, and no more. What money was spent on
standardization was chiefly for JTC1/SC2/WG2 and CEN/TC304
activities, in point of fact, and it was spent with the agreement of
the two co-directors who both signed the cheques. It ought not to be
made to look otherwise.

For my part, I regret not one penny of the money we chose to spend on
standardization travel, nor one minute of the time I invested in
drawing up script and character proposals. Consider, for instance,
the living scripts which have been encoded to date with at least some
of my input (Buhid, Cherokee, Canadian Syllabics, Ethiopic, Hanunˇo,
Khmer, Limbu, Myanmar, Sinhala, Tagbanwa, Tai Le, Thaana, Tibetan,
and Yi). These are used to write languages spoken by some 63 million
people on our planet. The investment has, to be sure, enabled me to
come into the fullness of my ability to do what has become my own
life's work. If I may be so bold to say so, the Unicode Standard and
ISO/IEC 10646 -- and computer users worldwide -- are better off for
the investment which "EGT" made between 1994 and 2001 than they would
have been otherwise.

>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").

The software localization industry is of enormous importance to the
Irish economy, and is certainly not a "German" interest. Tex Texin
and Ken Whistler have commented on this point already.

While material support was given by "EGT" to the cause of the
Universal Character Set during my tenure as co-director of that
limited company, that support does not continue. "EGT" does not
currently participate in the NSAI subcomittee which has
responsibility for ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2 matters.

>While I regret the actual percentage 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.

The Universal Character Set does not discriminate between the global
community and local communities; it is universal.

I've written this because I don't like revisionist histories, and
because in saying "our decision" Marion implies that she is speaking
for me as well at that time. The support given by "EGT" to this
effort during the past decade was driven by the "E", and it is
disingenuous, in my opinion, for Marion to imply otherwise,
particularly as the "E" continues standardization efforts

Michael Everson *** Everson Typography ***

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