From: Tim Greenwood (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed May 18 2005 - 16:05:21 CDT
Snopes has an interesting, and probably definitive, article on the
railroad myth on http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.htm.
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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