7 Bit fonts

Claude_Setzer at fcsmtp.mum.edu Claude_Setzer at fcsmtp.mum.edu
Sat Dec 14 05:00:05 UTC 1996

Dera Indology members:

My last posting was a simple one page note, the same one contained below. It
was sent to both Indology and to ISO_TC46. For some reason, the one that went
to Indolgy got about 800 blank pages inserted into it. The other version, the
exact same file came back fine. I have no idea what happened on the Indology
server, but I hope this one comes through correctly.

Sorry for the inconvenience that this caused.   I assure you that it was not a
prank. I have no idea what caused it.

Claude Setzer

This message is a response to messages on both Indology and ISO-TC46. Sorry if
some of you dont have all the background information.

First of all, I will respond to the John Clews message regarding readability
of capital letters in the middle of text. I think it is not only extremely
difficult to read but also extremely inelegant, to the point of being ugly and
insensitive to the needs of basic human communication, as are all 7 Bit
schemes. There is not a single language in the world that can fully
communicate with only 7 Bits of information. Even American English is filled
with words borrowed from other languages that require diacritics to correctly
express and pronounce. Simple 8 Bit fonts have been around for at least 200
years that nicely represent almost all languages. Now that we can view
real-time movies, sounds, etc. around the world and send robots to walk around
on Mars, why on earth are we so timid about using this minuscule advancement
in technology . It has been easily useable for many years and its technology
is so simple that it is like comparing algae to human consciousness when we
compare 8 bits fonts to the standard features of INTERNET today.

When I read all of these passionate messages about 7 Bit fonts/character sets
it reminds me vividly of a popular television series from a few years ago, Max
Headroom. It was a very futuristic setting where the entire world was run by
all-knowing, all-powerful, conscious computers. The weird thing was that
humans input data to the computer using a 1940s style mechanical typewriter
instead of a modern keyboard.

This is the same type of incredibly archaic technology we are discussing here.
It is even more incredible that we are discussing it on the INTERNET with
almost instant communication from people all around the world. For those of
you who actually use INTERNET, you have certainly noticed many times that a
Web site will tell you that your web browser is too old an unsophisticated to
see anything on that site. Only six or eight months ago, Explorer 2 and
Netscape 2 were the most sophisticated personal communication software that
had ever been developed by humankind. Now there are thousands (maybe hundreds
of thousands) of websites that have moved on to never technology and are no
longer interested in communicating with anyone who will not upgrade their

It would seem to me that the purpose/goal of  ISO-TC46 and Indology is to help
the world move smoothly and comfortably into the future. However, it seems
that their current function is to lock us inextricably into the past and
outdated technology. It must have been at least 15 years since anyone has
manufactured a computer not capable of 8 bit fonts. Why on earth are we trying
to force the world to suffer because a few people are still using software
that hasnt been update for year and years. Why do we not refuse to use their
ancient systems and update to some slightly less primitive

Regarding the use of Romanized fonts to represent Sanskrit, all of the 7 Bit
schemes seem to almost totally loose the feel of Sanskrit. I cannot understand
why anyone would spend major parts of their life studying a civilization or a
people and not think it is important to be familiar with the way that culture
communicates with itself. That must be an important part of their whole way of
thinking and their consciousness. It is certainly understandable that Roman
script needs to be used in the learning stage, and even for widespread email
communications. However, there just is no reason for the feel of the language
to be butchered in the process. To me the standard diacritic markings that
have been used more or less consistently for over a hundred years do retain a
good portion of the feel of Devanagari (or Telegu etc. as the case may be).
The dozens of much more synthetic 7 Bit transliteration schemes that have come
up recently do not even come close to representing the feel of the language,
and are quite disturbing to the mind to continually be trying to remember
which scheme the current author is using and what it means. It is very ironic
that these schemes seem to have come up largely for use of computers, when the
computers themselves can easily handle technology a thousand times more
advanced. What are we doing???!!!!

What we should be doing is working on affordable software that automatically
allows email (on or off the INTERNET) to instantly appear in the native font
of its origin (Devanagari, Telegu, Tamil, Kanji, etc.), rather than wasting
all of our time fighting over which archaic 7 bit font to use!!! There is no
reason to use ANY 7 Bit font!! Until we can use natural fonts, let us at least
move on to an 8 Bit Romanized font!!

Claude Setzer		csetzer at mum.edu  or cssetzer at mum.edu


         Sent via ExpressNet/SMTP(tm), Internet Gateway of the Gods!
               ExpressNet/SMTP (c)1994-95 Delphic Software, Inc.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list