Non-standard 8-bit fonts still in use

Marcel Schneider charupdate at
Mon May 9 10:16:42 CDT 2016

On Sun, 8 May 2016 10:19:54 -0400, Don Osborn  wrote:

> Marcel, I would be very interested to know more about what you are
> working on wrt Bambara - perhaps offline.

Thank you for your interest. Iʼm glad to come in touch 
with on-going work and I already started mailing but 
eventually would like to acknowledge on-list; although…

On Sun, 8 May 2016 14:11:20 -0400, Don Osborn  wrote:

> To get this a little on-topic for the list, the
> good news is that Unicode means we're talking just about keyboards and
> not about multiple incompatible fonts as well.

Indeed, however font issues are IMHO even more suitable 
for the List (though strictly they are out of scope too), 
as opposed to keyboard layouts, that must not be discussed 
on the Unicode List. Only giving some hints is suitable, 
as had been done in this thread up to now. Consequently 
I switched off-list immediately. But here I’m doing some 
metadiscussion, so please disregard.

> In the background one should bring in the issue of whether computer
> science students and IT experts in Africa had any introduction to
> Unicode. That could be a big missing piece in the equation.

For future archive readers there may be some need to recall 
that this phenomenon is a global one. Missing training to Unicode 
is observed in Europe as well, and on other continents. 
Please see the following recent thread:

Unicode in the Curriculum? 
from Andre Schappo on 2015-12-30 (Unicode Mail List Archive). 
Retrieved March 11, 2016, from

> On the font side, my impression (a bit dated) is that there is/was a
> policy dimension or gap. Back when Unicode was becoming more widely
> adopted, there were new computers marketed in Africa without the then
> limited repertoire of fonts with extended Latin. Even when these were
> included, there are some instances where it is possible that 8-bit fonts
> with extended characters were created on machines that already had one
> or two Unicode fonts - evidently unbeknownst to the user. So there was,
> and always has been, a public education side to this that none of us in
> position or interest to do so have been able to address.

Please see also the capital left-hook N glyph issue Don documented 
at the very beginning of this thread:

Non-standard 8-bit fonts still in use from Don Osborn on 2015-10-15 (Unicode Mail List Archive). 
(2015, October 21). Retrieved October 21, 2015, from

For one more comment on that issue:

On Sun, 8 May 2016 12:31:59 -0600, Doug Ewell  wrote:

> Don Osborn wrote:
> > In the multilingual settings I'm most interested in, the language
> > requirements often overlap, sometimes considerably (thinking here of
> > extended Latin alphabets). This is because in many languages use
> > characters that are part of the African Reference Alphabet. So it is
> > possible to have one keyboard layout for each language, or merge
> > requirements if you will for two or more. When the A12n-collab group
> > was active* one concept discussed at some length was a "pan-Sahelian"
> > layout that could serve many languages across a number of countries.
> I wonder if there is a good and fairly comprehensive reference to the
> most common Latin-based alphabets used for African languages, comparable
> to Michael Everson's "The Alphabets of Europe" [1]. Such would be
> helpful for determining the level of effort to create a pan-African
> keyboard layout, or to adapt (if necessary) an existing multilingual
> layout like John Cowan's Moby Latin [2].
> [1]
> [2]

On Sun, 8 May 2016 19:15:20 +0000, dzo at replied:

> Rhonda Hartell did a compilation based on available info, 
> published 23 yrs ago by SIL. Christian Chanard put that info 
> into a database, Systemes alphabetiques, accessible via links from 
> All I have right now (taking break from shoveling leaf compost). 

Thanks for this resource. Iʼve taken a look and I like the interface. 
But there is some update missing, or more accurately, the source was outdated, 
as shows up when looking at the Bambara section that does not take into account 
the new orthography, though this had already been valid during over one decade 

Sadly this valuable database is unreliable unless the data is revised. 
I hope that can be done soon. However unfortunately Iʼm unable to do this job.

Best regards,


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