Unicode and the digital divide. (derives from Re: Towards some more Private Use Area code points for ligatures.)

From: William Overington (WOverington@ngo.globalnet.co.uk)
Date: Fri May 31 2002 - 05:45:00 EDT

>> You are trying to find a solution to a problem that has already
>> been solved in a better way, and in the process you will create
>> more problems for anyone who uses your solution. So give it
>> up already.
>I will buy a drink for whoever can truly make William understand this point
>so that he can move his intellect onto useful issues for which solutions
>are actually needed.
>And William himself is not disqualified from this; if he figures it out on
>his own I would be happy to buy the drink for him. ;-)
>Michael Kaplan
>Trigeminal Software, Inc. -- http://www.trigeminal.com/

This discussion seems to be related to the digital divide.

Suppose that someone has access to a PC which has Windows 95 or Windows 98
and has Microsoft Word 97 installed. The person wishes to produce a print
out of a transcription of a piece of text from an 18th Century English book,
by keying in a copy of the text and then printing it out. The person finds
that the text has a ct ligature in it. How does the person produce the
desired finished result?

My suggested solution is to try to obtain a TrueType fount which contains a
ct ligature, add the fount into the PC, open a Word 97 document, key the
text, wherever a ct ligature is needed, use Insert | Symbol and choose the
ct ligature from the dialogue box.

By there existing a publicly available document which includes within it a
pairing of ct with the code point U+E707 the possibility exists that some
people might include ct in a TrueType fount and might place it at U+E707
within that TrueType fount.

Now, the pairing of ct with the code point U+E707, rather than some other
code point, does not affect the use with Word 97 as I have described it, as
the Insert | Symbol does not draw the attention of the end user to the code

However, if that page were saved in HTML format, the code numbers would be
passed through to the HTML page, so if the list of code points were widely
used by people, then maybe the document containing the ct ligature could be
displayed in a web page, interested viewers needing to use a fount with a ct
ligature available. Also, the very existence of the list might lead to
someone who is authoring a fount choosing to add a ct ligature and various
other ligatures into the fount.

The existence of the list also hopefully makes it more likely that in the
future \uE707 drawn to the screen of a Java applet will produce a ct
ligature rather than a rectangular box.

Now, if this list of ligatures were not used, how exactly, precisely would
the person produce the print out of a transcription of a piece of text from
an 18th Century English book, by keying in a copy of the text and then
printing it out? I am reminded of the posting some time ago in this
discussion list where someone, I cannot remember who was the author,
commented on what that author called a great tsu nami (tidal wave) of the
computing industry, whereby from the moment that a new version of a product
is launched, businesses presume that customers are using the very latest
version. Now, businesses doing that may just be using marketing hype, yet
there are other issues. When PCs are replaced in big businesses, if the
replacement is of perfectly functioning machines which are being replaced
with more recent models, fortunately some of the machines do not get
scrapped but move to other locations, either to other businesses or to
schools and colleges and so on, so that the PCs, whilst not the latest
models, do get used to good effect. Also, in the home and leisure market,
many people simply cannot afford, and do not need, to buy a new machine.
For example, if a PC is largely used for writing and for drawing static
graphics, why would someone need to buy a new PC which has much faster
processing of animated graphics such as are used in games?

So, I wonder what is the answer to the question of how the person wishing to
produce the print out of a transcription of a piece of text from an 18th
Century English book, by keying in a copy of the text and then printing it
out should proceed? Is it a case of "first buy a new PC" or what?

The comment has been made "You are trying to find a solution to a problem
that has already been solved in a better way, and in the process you will
create more problems for anyone who uses your solution.".

What, exactly and precisely, is the better way that is claimed?

What, exactly and precisely, are the problems which I will allegedly create
for other people?

These are not rhetorical questions, I really would genuinely like to know.
I am quite happy to accept that perhaps a solution to the problem has been
found, yet wonder whether that solution is, as of today, only available to
people who are on one side of a digital divide. If there really are
problems which my list will cause then I will be happy to add a note stating
of the problem. Yet I am very concerned that I may be in effect being told
here that Unicode is only really intended for people with the very latest
equipment using expensive solutions that are only realistically available to
rich corporations.

My thinking is that the existence of the list, (and hopefully, the list
having been distributed in this discussion group, many people will be aware
of its existence, and may perhaps have even filed a copy for possible future
reference), will hopefully make the availability of such ligatures in founts
more widespread and will also hopefully influence people who make software
packages, such as relatively inexpensive electronic book publishing
packages, to build in a feature so that such ligatures may be accessed from
a TrueType fount. The list is not a requirement to code certain ligatures
in a certain way, it is simply a list which exists and which can be obtained
on the web. The use of the codes in the list for particular ligatures is
only as consistent as end users choose to make it consistent.

I feel that the Unicode system should be available for all, not just for
people who are on the money side of the digital divide. So, if there is a
new fount technology which can only be applied using expensive new software
then maybe in a few years time it will become available using less expensive
software and more people will be able to use it. In the meantime, people
need to use what they can. If indeed the existence of a list of private use
area code points for ligatures in some way causes some problem of which I am
yet to be aware, I will take such action as I feel is both reasonable and
within my abilities to avoid those problems being caused.

The list is obtainable from our family webspace in England.


Readers might also like to have a look at the following.


A problem for which I am trying to find a solution is as to how someone with
only everyday PC type facilities can obtain software which can set the
individual parameters of the pHYs chunk of a PNG file, so as to indicate a
non-square pixel. This is needed so as to satisfy section 15.1.1 of the
DVB-MHP (Digital Video Broadcasting - Multimedia Home Platform)
specification which is available at the http://www.mhp.org website. I have
searched on the web and asked all over the place about this and not yet
found an answer. Is there anyone on this list that knows please?

The main index of our family webspace is as follows.


William Overington

31 May 2002

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