From: "Monowara Begum"
Subject: Re: How does a computer keyboard generate ASCII code or signals?
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 12:40:13 -0400
NNTP-Posting-Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 12:44:02 EDT
Organization: Bell Sympatico
Many thanks to Robert Baer and Ian Stirling for very helpful answers. May I
beg your indulgence to add a bit of clarification how the consumers may
percieve their needs and problems, outside the English speaking world.
1. English does not need any more than 96 characters, but many writing
systems need as many as 224 characters (leaving 32 for non-printing
characters), still within the 8-bit limit. China, Japan and Korea require
thousands of ideographs. The problem for character-rich languages is to have
an intuitive way of invoking the [remote] character beginning from location
121 through 256 in the ASCII-8 set.
2. English-based software developers have liberally preempted the Alt+key,
Ctl+Alt+Key, Alt+Shift+Key and similar combinations for shortcuts to
function calls, not to characters. There is no standard. These combinations
are not used by English to invoke characters (since the need is well met by
using the normal key and the shift+key combination). Non-English languages
now use thousands of software to generate the [remote] characters. These are
not portable or compatible in the absence of standards. We do not see much
web material in character-rich languages for this reason.
3. The problem is really so acute that Unicode devised something that
appears as the worst nightmare to an economist. Instead of using 8 bits to
identify a character, Unicode needs 16 bits, instantly doubling the storage
and transmission load, in the hope that 65536 spots would give room to all
languages. Who will pay for this increased cost? The composite characters
are usually not provided by Unicode, so that while Hindi has a composite
character (say by pre-adding n to t), still within the size limit of 224
characters in 8-bit, Unicode would have you use three 16-bit letters (n, +,
t) and still not give a composite character. (Some software will have to
create the composite outside Unicode provisions.) This means that Unicode
requires 48 bits to store and transmit what should be possible to do with
just 8 bits. In their infinite wisodm, Unicode creators have assigned more
than 20 spots for exactly the same character in common alphabets, but no
place for composites. That is, instead of providing a single code space for
all languages using a common alphabet, (though with different glyphs of the
same character), Unicode has wasted space, and asks you to invest in 16 bit
storage and transmission. Sanskrit-based languages all share the same
alphabet, and they can simply switch to a different font for their different
glyphs. The Unicode <> is indeed a problem.
4.Most people like me cannot even remember where the k key or y key is and
must optically scan the keyboard to find it. It is out of question for them
to press Alt+0221 to generate the charcater stored at the font location
0221. How are they going to remember which combinations to use? A sensible
and intuitive keyboard can impose a physical standard to avoid such costly
Meanwhile, have lots of fun.