5.0422 Corrected Version: What's Wrong with Unicode (1/46)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 27 Oct 1991 23:43:17 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0420. Sunday, 27 Oct 1991.

Date: Sat, 26 Oct 91 17:30:38 EDT
From: "Paul F. Schaffner" <USERGFNK@UMICHUM.BITNET>
Subject: What's wrong with a unicode

We have been asked to suggest what might be good or bad about the
inclusion of unicode in future systems. I have only an end-user's
sentiments to offer, generally negative. My concern is simply this:
that no uniform coding scheme could possibly accommodate all the
characters or character sets individual users might want; and that
by including a wide range of languages, any such inclusive system
would greatly decrease the market for, and hence the availability
of, methods by which those individualist individuals who found
the scheme inadequate might circumvent it.

Would Unicode allow for exceptions? I have, for example,
found occasion to use the following characters: the 6-shaped w
used in medieval Welsh; various standard & peculiar Latin and
Old/Middle English abbreviations (back loop for -er or -es, crossed
p, hooked h, &c.), punctuation, and letter forms (sideways
m, etc.); Old Norse characters such as a-a digraph with double
acute, a-v digraph, a-u digraph, &c.; and a whole range of
editorial marks. In the present situation, the standard
8-bit character sets are so obviously limited that a whole range
of affordable bit-map editors, downloaders, screen-font editors, &c.,
is readily available. I make characters easily & at will. If I
need to convert to another app, a few search-and-replaces may
be tedious, but easy enough and well worth the flexibility
I have gained. No doubt this offends the tidy-minded, but the first
thing I ask of any app. program is "how easy is it to customize?"
"how easily can I impose *my* standards?"--especially my
character sets. It's easy to see why I do not warm to the idea of
burying this kind of information in the environment or (worse)
operating system, where it can't be got at.

With the advent of Windows, ATM & co., & scale-on-the fly,
with their obvious convenience but extreme limitations as regards
user-customized characters and character sets (yes, I know it's
possible to edit Type 1 outlines, but is it possible for the
humble user to add the hinting necessary for small sizes?), bitmaps
are already coming to be regarded as obsolete. One would not be
surprised to see them fade away altogether. Increasing the range of
the character set included in this closed system would only make
the problem worse: a closed system that includes a lot more people
is still just as closed to those outside it. What I want is an
open system, as completely open as possible. Is this reasonably to
be expected if movements toward more inclusive standardization proceed?
If not, I prefer anarchy.

Paul Schaffner
Middle English Dictionary