RE: Historians- what is origin of i18n, l10n, etc.?

From: John McConnell (
Date: Thu Oct 10 2002 - 13:02:00 EDT

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    I can confirm Hiura-san's version. I heard it from Jurgen Bettels, who've I've known since '84 and worked with Scherpenhuizen in the Geneva office at the time. Scherpenhuizen managed the ISO work.

    In the days when bytes were precious, VMS had a character username limit. Some anonymous system administrator shortened Scherpenhuizen's username to S12N to fit. It may have been especially funny because Scherpenhuizen was an unusually large man. Whatever, it became an office joke for long words. Internationalization had just become a hot topic in ISO then, so it was applied, and stuck.

    I suspect Eamon MacDermott may have been the person who spread the term from DEC to the rest of the world.


    -----Original Message-----
    From: Tex Texin []
    Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2002 8:55 AM
    To: Hideki Hiura
    Subject: Re: Historians- what is origin of i18n, l10n, etc.?

    Thanks Hideki!

    I went thru my i18n books to scan for mentions. The earliest mention I could find for i18n (the abbreviation) was 1992, in "Soft Landing in Japan". It seems like 1993 some books mention it, and 94 and thereafter it is consistently mentioned.

    The term "internationalization" seems vendor oriented. IBM preferred "enabling" (and NLS). I have some early DEC books (87 or so), and the abbreviation wasn't used.

    The lack of use in books before 92 could be a choice by the authors that the term was jargon or slang and wasn't relevant to explaining the concepts.

    It seems to have passed from DEC to Unix usage, if we believe the reports I am getting.

    I'll make a web page for this, after I get a few more comments. tex

    Hideki Hiura wrote:
    > > From: "Winkler, Arnold F" <> Sometime
    > > around 1991 in a IEEE P1003.1 (POSIX) meeting, Gary Miller (IBM) was
    > > writing on the blackboard. After having spelled out
    > > Internationalization a few times, he first abbreviated it to I--n
    > > and a bit later (obviously after counting the letters in between)
    > > used I18N. Sandra might have been at the meeting, and Keld - they
    > > might be able to confirm my recollection.
    > The acronym "I18N" appeared before 1991, since I recall I have already
    > used I18N in '89 ;-).
    > The beginning of this kind of acronym was S12N(Scherpenhuizen) at DEC,
    > as far as on the record, as an email address for him on DEC VMS.
    > By 1985, I18N became an acronym for Internationalization in the I18N
    > team at DEC, by following this Scherpenhuizen's S12N convention.
    > Among the standard organizations, the /usr/group (It became UniForum
    > later) was the first one using I18N as an acronym for
    > Internationalization, in '88.
    > --
    > hiura@{,,,,}
    > Chair, Li18nux/Linux Internationalization Initiative,
    > Board of Directors, Free Standards Group,
    > Architect/Sr. Staff Engineer, Sun Microsystems, Inc, USA eFAX: 509-693-8356

    Tex Texin   cell: +1 781 789 1898
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    Making e-Business Work Around the World

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