Re: ASCII and Unicode lifespan

From: Tim Greenwood (
Date: Wed May 18 2005 - 16:05:21 CDT

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    Snopes has an interesting, and probably definitive, article on the
    railroad myth on
    One sentence in the explanation is very applicable to the discussion
    on Unicode. "Although we humans can be remarkably inventive, we are
    also often resistant to change and can be persistently stubborn (or
    perhaps practical) in trying to apply old solutions to new
    conditions." I believe that some of the original designers of Unicode
    wanted a far more revolutionary break from preexisting practice, but
    success for the standard required a more piecemeal approach. A quote
    from Mark Davis is relevant "Canonical equivalence was the mechanism
    for saying that two variants of a character really should never have
    been encoded (but we had to for compatibility reasons). " The success
    of UTF8 comes from its compatibility with both ASCII and the null
    terminated string paradigm. So even though the details of the railroad
    story may be erroneous, the moral that successful standards; replacing
    earlier ones; are evolutionary rather than revolutionary is valid.

    As to whether Unicode will be supplanted in its domain space, I would
    say that depends on how you define that domain space. I do not see it
    being replaced by a more perfect coded character set as we know and
    love that beast. I can envision some new mechanisms that unify other
    aspects of communication with text for processing and interchange.
    Perhaps speech, perhaps pictures, gestures, emotion .... who knows.
    When that mechanism arises I anticipate that as with UTF8, it will
    have some form of backward compatibility to embrace the terabytes of
    Unicode encoded text.


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