Re: Java char and Unicode 3.0+ (was:Canonical equivalence in rendering: mandatory or recommended?)

From: John Cowan (
Date: Thu Oct 16 2003 - 06:07:42 CST

Jill Ramonsky scripsit:

> As a scientist, I don't believe in clairvoyance. I do, however, think
> that "maybe ... sometime in the future ..." is a reasonable enough
> statement to make, and that "...will most assuredly long as you
> and I are here" is a very dangerous predicition to make (unless I'm
> wrong about clairvoyance).

The Sun will continue to rise (or appear to do so), most assuredly, as
long as you and I are here and a good deal longer too. What is more,
the claim that Julius Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March in
the year 44 BCE is unlikely to be challenged. These predictions are
entirely consistent with the scientific worldview as understood by
reasonable persons.

Similarly, the number of characters used by the peoples of the Earth
for writing their various languages is not going to be expanded by
the discovery of 10,000 characters used for writing the lost script
of Atlantis. The earth is finite and small, and there's no place for
large writing systems to hide from the eagle eyes of the Roadmappers.

It's true that Unicode fairly recently expanded to incorporate planes 1
and 2, but the *need* to do so has been foreseen for more than a decade.
Plane 3 may also be pressed into service as more Han characters are
(quite literally) dug up.

> Don't count on anything.

Tell me (as the philosopher Carnap said to his younger colleague
Smullyan), have you bought yourself an extra glove just in case you wake
up one morning with a third arm?

> Even if Unicode stops at 10FFFF, there may be
> other, future standards, of which Unicode is but a subset.

Then they will not be character encoding standards. There are plenty
of integers to go around.

> I'm sure the
> designers of ASCII thought it was amply large enough at the time.

They knew perfectly well that it was a compromise between expressiveness
and concision in a world of 110-baud transmission lines and computers
more than a thousand times slower than today's desktop machines.

> It's a simple enough rule - never hard-code limitations into your design
> if you don't have to. You may one day live to regret it. (Or you may not
> ... but no-one will ever critise you for erring on the side of safety).

The U.S. budget is measured in trillions of dollars, but we can fairly
well exclude from our systems the possibilities that it will be measured
in trillion trillions some day. The Y2K bug was a serious concern
(motivated by storage costs something like 10^5 times the cost of
today's); the Y10K bug is not. The exhaustion of the 32-bit IPv4 space
is a reasonable concern, and was known to be so the day it was introduced;
the 128-bit IPv6 space is not subject to that concern.

"But I am the real Strider, fortunately,"       John Cowan
he said, looking down at them with his face
softened by a sudden smile.  "I am Aragorn son
of Arathorn, and if by life or death I can
save you, I will."  --LotR Book I Chapter 10

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Jan 18 2007 - 15:54:24 CST