Re: Encoded rendering instructions (was Unicode's Mandate)

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Mon Mar 07 2005 - 21:33:04 CST

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    Kenneth Whistler wrote at 5:50 PM on Monday, March 7, 2005:

    >> By implement, I mean, for
    >> example, in plain text draw all of the letter "A" as normal, except its
    >> lower right corner in a lighter shade to indicate damage there.
    >That isn't plain text.

    Well, that's begging the question of what is plain text. I'd like to see
    some definitions put forward. [In the meantime I'll look in the Unicode
    standard in the morning.]

    >And to do this kind of thing at all, you
    >would need special font support.

    You would not need special font support for this.

    All computer glyphs end up as bitmaps, at which point alpha channel
    transparency, for example, could be applied to any portion of a
    character's bitmap before drawing. This is trivial to code, with no added
    support needed from all current font formats.

    >The very concept of a 3x3 grid
    >(or a 2x2 grid, for that matter) doesn't map well, in the general
    >case, to rendered glyphs for all writing systems. It already
    >assumes a level of abstraction that identifies some square box for
    >each glyph to be portrayed in, so that quadrant damage or lacunae
    >can be identified.

    My suggestion does not presume a square box, it presumes a rectangular
    box, namely the glyph's "ink" bounding box. Not an unusual concept. As a
    cute example, I once saw some code from Apple that ran a real-time
    pinball machine game where the balls bounced off the outlines of text you

    >How would I expect a renderer to apply that
    >abstraction to Arabic or Mongolian script, for example?

    I don't know Mongolian, but I see no issue with Arabic. The only issue I
    can think of for the scripts with which I am familiar would be for the
    very narrow glyphs such as "l" or "-"; the effacement could be visually
    confused with anti-aliasing; nevertheless the encoded text would still be
    very useful.

    >What *could* be appropriate for encoding as characters, from the
    >fields of paleography and epigraphy here, would be entire symbols
    >indicating quadrant damage -- in other words, some thematic take on
    >sets of quadrant symbols such as U+2596..U+259F, U+25E7, U+25E8,
    >U+25F0..U+25F3, etc, which might reflect use in text to *discuss*
    >glyph damage and lacunae, etc. This would be quite different from
    >trying to encode a bunch of format controls to actually make
    >the text *render* with damage and lacunae.

    But the real need is for sometimes very significant historic character
    damage to travel everywhere with plain text representations of that text.


    Dean A. Snyder

    Assistant Research Scholar
    Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project
    Computer Science Department
    Whiting School of Engineering
    218C New Engineering Building
    3400 North Charles Street
    Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218

    office: 410 516-6850
    cell: 717 817-4897

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