Re: Non-standard 8-bit fonts still in use

From: Don Osborn <>
Date: Sun, 8 May 2016 14:11:20 -0400

Thanks Doug. You're right as far as that goes, but I'd suggest there's
more to it.

Languages (by which of course we mean their written forms) have
requirements, and for cross-border languages, requirements may be
defined differently by the different countries where they are spoken.
And users have needs and experience.

In the multilingual settings I'm most interested in, the language
requirements often overlap, sometimes considerably (thinking here of
extended Latin alphabets). This is because in many languages use
characters that are part of the African Reference Alphabet. So it is
possible to have one keyboard layout for each language, or merge
requirements if you will for two or more. When the A12n-collab group was
active* one concept discussed at some length was a "pan-Sahelian" layout
that could serve many languages across a number of countries.

But even then, considering variations by country (orthographies often
set by country not by language), there can be several possible sets of
language requirements, in a "pan-Sahelian" layout. And that's just one

Then there is the question of key assignments for any given character.
Unfortunately in Africa there are not established layouts to deal with -
most formally educated people will be most familiar with QWERTY or
AZERTY for the official languages. Everything else is pretty much a
matter of choice, although some small communities of users may have
developed familiarity with particular layouts (perhaps a reason for
persistence of something like Bambara Arial). So another reason there
are a zillion keyboards is that people are inventing them - for good
reasons and intent, we can admit, but often without awareness of other
efforts, or communication with other communities of users.

You are right however that none of these are standards (with a possible
exception - would have to go back and check) - I was trying to be clever
- but there are different layouts.

Another thing about user needs is that the polyglot/pluriliterate user
may prefer something that reflects that, as opposed to having multiple
keyboards for languages whose character repertoires are much the same.
 From a national or regional (sub-continental) point of view I would
think a one-size fits all/many standard or set of keyboard standards
would be ideal. But no one seems to be going there yet, after all these

And one could go on. To get this a little on-topic for the list, the
good news is that Unicode means we're talking just about keyboards and
not about multiple incompatible fonts as well.


* I'm floating the idea of a new list on the full spectrum of African
languages & technology issues. Anyone interested or who has thoughts on
that idea one way or another, please contact me offline.

On 5/8/2016 12:50 PM, Doug Ewell wrote:
> Don Osborn wrote:
>> Concerning the keyboard side of the issue, there has been a lot of
>> discussion about unified standards over the years, but what we end up
>> with is maybe another case of "The nice thing about standards is that
>> there are so many to choose from."
> There are a zillion keyboard layouts, not because of too many
> conflicting standards per se, but primarily because people don't want
> to change away from the layout they're familiar with, and secondarily
> because different languages have different needs.
> --
> Doug Ewell | | Thornton, CO 🇺🇸
Received on Sun May 08 2016 - 13:13:06 CDT

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