Re: ASCII and Unicode lifespan

From: Frank Yung-Fong Tang (
Date: Wed May 18 2005 - 04:00:42 CDT

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    2005/5/17, Peter Kirk <>:
    > On 17/05/2005 14:56, Doug Ewell wrote:
    > There
    > is no point in designing a car to last 50 years when its design is
    > likely to be obsolete in 10.

    You surely have a bad car. What is the brand? You won't say that if you
    drive Toyota or Honda.... Even the German Bettles still looks like what they
    used to look in before WWII.... Fortunately you are not in the car making

    Standard surely evolve. I believe many standard we used today, including
    what we used in the automobile industry today, is build on top of standard
    specified many years ago. If you do not agree, read the following story...

    " In the United States the standard railroad gauge (distance between the
    rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number, so why was
    that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and
    English expatriates built the US Railroads.

    Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail
    lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and
    that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the
    people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used
    for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

    Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if
    they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of
    the old, long distance roads in
    England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first
    long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads
    have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots
    formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of
    destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial
    Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

    So the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches was
    derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.
    So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass
    came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war
    chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war

    Now the ironic twist to the story . . . When you see a Space
    Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets
    attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket
    boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.
    The engineers who designed the SRB would have preferred to make them a bit
    fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the
    launch site. The railroad line from the factory
    happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit
    through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track,
    and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses'

    So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's
    most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years
    ago by the width of a horse's ass! ...and you thought being a HORSE'S ASS
    wasn't important.


    Frank Yung-Fong Tang 譚永鋒
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