Re: DEC multilingual code page, ISO 8859-1, etc.

From: Frank da Cruz (
Date: Wed Mar 22 2000 - 12:23:44 EST

Ed Hart wrote:

> Actually, there were 3 very similar proposals in the draft stage and the 3
> differed in only a few character assignments:
> ECMA 94, ISO 8859-1, and ANSI dp 131.2 (or 132.2)
> I heard that representatives from the 3 organizations developed a compromise
> proposal that became ECMA 94 and ISO 8859-1. The ANSI proposal was never
> progressed beyond the draft stage and in the early 1990s, ANSI/ISO 8859-1
> was adopted instead as the "8-bit ASCII" standard.
In which the C1 area is reserved for controls, in conformance with ISO 4873
and 2022.

The point is, PC code pages are not for information interchange. They are
for internal use in the PC by its applications. The first step -- at least
the first significant one -- down the slippery slope came with CP437.

It has long been my (unsubstantiated) view that the success of the IBM PC
was entirely unexpected. Remember that in 1980 there were hundreds of
different kinds of computers, including desktop ones (Apples, CP/M-80,
CP/M-86, etc), and IBM had previously tried to enter this arena not once,
but twice, and failed (first with a desktop APL system, then with the

But a group within IBM thought they should not totally give up on this
market and won the right to slap something together hurriedly that (a) would
trump the CP/M market by offering 16 bits and (up to) 640K of memory ("more
memory than you'll ever need"), and (b) putting the IBM logo on it. But it
certainly wasn't the only game in town. As far as I can tell, the PC was
put together from Radio Shack parts and the result was (a) successful beyond
their wildest dreams, and (b) an architectural and design nightmare, one
that determined the future of computing for decades to come. My point being
that IBM, if they had it to do over again, might have put a bit more thought
(funding, time) into it.

- Frank

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