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Unicode

September 30th, 2003 · No Comments

NYTimes writes about the Michael Everson, the person behind “computer age’s Rosetta stone” and his creation:

A more technical explanation of Unicode is this: When Mr. Everson sends e-mail in ogham, his computer isn’t sending ogham letters through the ether. Instead, strings of 0’s and 1’s are transmitted, and when they arrive on a friend’s computer, they generate on its screen the same ogham letters that Mr. Everson typed. Unicode is the master list that resides in both computers and translates individual letters and symbols into strings of 0’s and 1’s and back again. Most current software is Unicode-compliant, which means that this master list of all the world’s writing systems has been built into operating systems, browsers and software.

The code assigned to all 96,000 characters is handled only by programmers in its naked form, while computer users (and sometimes vendors) install the specific fonts that represent a specific alphabet. A font renders a language readable to humans; Unicode renders a font readable to computers.

Most people don’t even realize Unicode is at work. “Unicode is like plumbing,” said Rick McGowan, the vice president of the Unicode Consortium. “Yet it’s the most far-reaching and ambitious multilingual project in history.”

Last month the latest version of the standard, Unicode Standard Version 4.0, was published. It contains encodings (that is, unique strings of 0’s and 1’s) for some 96,000 letters and symbols. Approximately 70,000 of them are Chinese characters. Unicode also contains support for 54 other writing systems, from Mongolian to Thai to Gothic to Cyrillic.

Tags: Software

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