5.0361 Multilingual WP (more) (2/136)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 4 Oct 1991 17:44:50 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0361. Friday, 4 Oct 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 4 Oct 91 08:50:09 PDT (64 lines)
From: "John J Hughes" <XB.J24@STANFORD.BITNET>
Subject: More on Multilingual Issues

(2) Date: Fri, 4 Oct 91 08:58:30 PDT (72 lines)
From: "John J Hughes" <XB.J24@STANFORD.BITNET>
Subject: Still More on Multilingual Issues

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 91 08:50:09 PDT
From: "John J Hughes" <XB.J24@STANFORD.BITNET>
Subject: More on Multilingual Issues

In his recent HUMANIAST message, Tom Crone takes issue with my lack of
concern for portability--being able to transfer (multilingual) files
among different DOS applications. I concede what I believe the idealized
version of the point to be: in the best of all possible computing
worlds, all programs on all platforms running under any number of
^?^?operating systems should be able to read one another's files in a way
that recognizes and preserves all characters--roman and
nonroman--scripts, formatting and mark up. Unfortunately, we don't live
in such a world, and I don't believe we will for quite some time, if
ever. Thus persons who need files in one format translated into another
format and who do not know how to do this themselves will continue to
need Tom and other consultants. Or they will need to do some research
and find a file conversion program that can meet their needs.

I'm not sure there is anything to agree or disagree with concerning
Tom's second point: there is no single video standard in the DOS world
but a multitude of "standards"--CGA, EGA, VGA, HGC+--and this multitude
makes it difficult for developers to develop applications, since each
program has to have a separate video driver to be able to communicate
with each of these video "standards."

But Tom's point raises a more general issue that I find interesting.
There is a blessing and a curse in IBM's approach to the PC platform.
The blessing is that when IBM created the PC in the early 1980s, they
deliberately created an "open platform" and published the specifications
for all (or most) of the components. In fact, the team that designed and
built the first IBM PC used, I believe, all off-the-shelf components,
including the operating system, which they licensed from Microsoft,
having decided not to use Digital's. Thus IBM made it easy for second-
and third-party vendors to develop add-on, add-in, and workalike
components and systems. They did this to try and make their machine as
inexpensive and easy to mass produce, as popular, and hence as
financially successful as possible. Their policy also made it possible
for companies to develop clones and to create new video "standards," for
example, Hercules' HGC+ and IBM's VGA. And by inviting
competition--deliberately or not--IBM's approach drove the price of
microcomputers and their components down, down, down. In fact, I think
it's fair to say that if IBM had not adopted the "open approach" it did,
there might not be a microcomputer-centered HUMANIST discussion group
because there might not have been a microcomputer revolution. Would
microcomputers have taken the business world and then the academic world
by storm if the sole commercially successful member of the species had
remained the Apple II, which in the early 1980s was produced by a
company run be two eccentric (to say the least) guys? I doubt it.

The curse is that the openness of the IBM platform resulted in many
(video) standards, not one. But now you have to ask yourself: "Is
Apple's more closed approach preferable?" To the best of my knowledge,
no one but Apple manufactures Macintosh-compatible ROMS. For example, a
few days ago I got somewhat excited when I read a press release about an
add-in card for DOS machines that would allow them to run Macintosh
^?^?^programs and read and write Macintosh files. The only drawback (not
counting the $900 price) was that users have to _provide their own
Macintosh ROMs_ either by cannibalizing an old Macintosh or by buying
the ROMs from dealers who have! Apple's "closed approach" means that
Apple has no competition in the Macintosh arena the way IBM does in the
DOS arena. And this means that you can get far more "bang for the buck"
by buying an IBM-compatible machine than by buying a Macintosh, since
competition in the DOS world functions to drive the prices down.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------83----
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 91 08:58:30 PDT
From: "John J Hughes" <XB.J24@STANFORD.BITNET>
SUBJECT: Still More on Multilingual Issues

In his recent HUMANIST message, John Baima takes me to task on several
matters to which I would like to respond.

First, although it is true that I am the Product Manager for Zondervan
Electronic Publishing, the company that developed ScriptureFonts, I am
not a Zondervan employee. I am an independent, self-employed consultant
to the company.

Second, ScriptureFonts is not my program. Zondervan and Jeff Gillette
jointly hold the copyright. Jeff, who while at Duke created the Duke
Humanities Toolkit and MicroCALIS, designed and programmed

Third, I have no financial interest in ScriptureFonts. Certainly, I hope
it continues to be successful. But its success does not profit me, and
its failure would not harm me.

Fourth, if in Richard's and John's terminology a "kludge" is an
application-specific solution to a problem (in this context, the problem
of multilingual text display and right-to-left scripts), then certainly
ScriptureFonts is a kludge. And so is NotaBene's SLS. And so is
WordPerfect's own Hebrew version of WordPerfect, which I have a
prototype of. And so, to an extent, is Nisus-Hebrew for the Macintosh,
since it requires a dongle (hardware key). And so forth. My
reply--provincial and short-sighted, I'm sure--is to shrug my shoulders
and say: "So what! If you have a solution that meets your needs, rejoice
and compute away."

Fifth, I remain convinced that _most_ scholars with multilingual
word-processing and text-manipulation interests are more concerned about
solving their own needs than they are in being able to export their
files to other applications and import files from other applications. I
have no statistical evidence to back up my belief, which is based on
conversations at conferences, phone calls from persons seeking help, and
introspection! Certainly, some, perhaps many, scholars are interested
in portability, but is this really a burning issue for most? I doubt it.

Sixth, John's remark "...no DOS solution for Hebrew or any other
difficult' language is anything but idiosyncratic" made me wonder if
there has been a thorough discussion of Microsoft Hebrew DOS on HUMAIST.
[Andrew Rippin at the University of Calgary could do a good job of
educating us on this...]

Seventh, John says: "Changing languages is not just changing `fonts' or
`formatting.' Languages are much more complicated than that and the
attitude that the solution is just fonts and formatting will keep us
from seeking and reaching good solutions." In my original message I
believe that I portrayed a language (in this context, characters on a
computer screen) as consisting of two things: a script (right-to-left,
left-to-right) and an alphabet (including diacritical marks).
Formatting--e.g., 10-point Times bold--is an incidental. I'd like to
know two things: (1) what is the "much more" that John has in mind, and
(2) what does John mean by "changing languages"?

Finally, I think that before we question one another's ethics (here I
refer to John's closing paragraph), it might be nice to get the facts
straight and not pronounce sentence on the basis of assumptions or
appearances. John says that my statement "I believe the price is..."
concerning ScriptureFonts is misleading. Well, I am not involved in
pricing Zondervan's products, and from time to time, Zondervan changes
its prices. I don't keep up with these changes, since they have nothing
to do with my consulting responsibilities and have no bearing on my
work. John also says that my statement "According to my records
Zondervan's phone number is..." is "unacceptable" (ethically, I assume)!
The number I provided was an 800 order number that I have never called
and that I got off a product brochure, just as I got the phone numbers
for the other products off their brochures or manuals. I'm not sure what
is unacceptable about this!