Re: Some Questions About VRML

Gavin Nicol (
Fri, 24 Mar 1995 13:03:16 -0500

>> >Yeah, many Oriental written languages are still based on ideograms. Look
>> >at all the trouble the Chinese are having with computers, and
>> >typewriters. It's easier to learn English.
>> This kind of thinking is rather problematic. Imagine if you were
>> forced to learn Arabic to use a computer. The solution is not to force
>> everyone to use English, but rather to provide an infrastructure that
>> supports all languages.
>This is exactly the sort of thinking I cannot abide by.

On an ordinary day, I'd be tempted to respond to this in a vitriolic
manner. Today, I simply cannot be bothered.

>Why should we halt all progress on a system just because a certain
>segment of the potential users have a history of doing things
>differently? Why should we bend over backward to accomodate a group of
>people who may not even be aware that we are trying to help them?

This paragraph exhibits both bigotry and ignorance of what is required
to support multilingual data sets. If I were Chinese or Japanese, I'd
probably be quite annoyed at people who ignore the large populations,
and the long histories; at upstarts that think they own the world.

There is no need to halt progress or development, but to simply apply
a little thought to the problem now, so that problems can be avoided
later. HTML is a very good example of how not to do it. The simple
decisions, like not requiring characters to be represented by single
bytes, are the ones that have the most profound effect.

>Many Japanese switch to English when they use a computer. The
>keyboards are easier to build because the character set is smaller.

I think most people here (in Japan, where I live), would be quite
surprised at this sentence. They do not switch to English, but rather
Romanji as the first step in the Romanji->Hiragana->Kanji conversion
process. This is not even required as many keyboards also allow the
direct input of Katakana, from which Hiragana and Kanji can be

>I think it is we who are at a disadvantage, since we are allowed to
>remain monolingual, while they are able to understand us, and still
>communicate in their native tongue.

Earlier you wanted to force them to use Enlgish. Now you lament the

>Think, Design, Model, Build, Evaluate, and then go back to
>Thinking. If this cycle stops inside any phase, the system ceases to
>function, and progress halts. There is death in that.

True. Ignoring the thinking part is also dangerous though. "Think
afore ye leap" ;-)

>We need to push ahead in this, mainly because it is going to be the
>killer app of computers and the Internet.

If this is indeed true, it is all the more reason to make sure a solid
foundation is built, or we'll be forever stuck with backward
combatibility problems (like we are now with HTML).

>We can help each other to build better solutions to problems like
>ideogrammatical languages.

I don't consider them to be a problem, and Hangul is one of the best
designed (yes! designed!) languages I've seen. I consider the 7 bit
nature of the network to be a problem, which is a direct result of
lack of vision, and forethought.

Let's not repeat that mistake.