Encoding of old compatibility characters

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at wanadoo.fr
Mon Mar 27 13:44:06 CDT 2017

TI caculators are not antique tools, and when I see how most calculators
for Android or Windows 10 are now, they are not as usable as the scientific
calculators we had in the past.

I know at least one excellent calculator that works with Android and
Windows and finally has the real look and feel of a true calculator, and
that display correct labels and excellent formulas (with the conventional
2D layout), my favorite is now "HyperCalc" (it has a free version and a
paid version). The Android version is a bit more advanced. The paid version
has only a few additional features not so needed (such as themes). The
interface is clear, and there are several input modes for expressions. When
you look at the default Calculator of Windows 10 it has never been worse
than what it is now (it was much better in Windows 7 or before, even if it
had many limitations).

Also entering expressions in Excel is really antique, and many functions
have stupid limitations (in addition, spreadsheets are not even portable
across versions of Office or don't render the same, and sometimes
unexpectedly produce different results).

But this is not at all a problem of character encoding: we don't need
Unicode at all to create a convenient UI in such applications. Even with a
web_based interface, you can do a lot with HTML canvas and SVG and have a
scalable UI without having to use dirty text tricks or using PUA fonts.

2017-03-27 19:18 GMT+02:00 Ken Whistler <kenwhistler at att.net>:

> On 3/27/2017 7:44 AM, Charlotte Buff wrote:
>> Now, one of Unicode’s declared goals is to enable round-trip
>> compatibility with legacy encodings. We’ve accumulated a lot of weird stuff
>> over the years in the pursuit of this goal. So it would be natural to
>> assume that the unencoded characters from the mentioned sets [ATASCII,
>> PETSCII, the ZX80 set, the Atari ST set, and the TI calculator sets] would
>> also be eligible for inclusion in the UCS.
> Actually, it wouldn't be.
> The original goal was to ensure round-trip compatibility with *important*
> legacy character encodings, *for which there was a need to convert legacy
> data, and/or an ongoing need to representation of text for interchange*.
> From Unicode 1.0: "The Unicode standard includes the character content of
> all major International Standards approved and published before December
> 31, 1990... [long list ensues] ... and from various industry standards in
> common use (such as code pages and character sets from Adobe, Apple, IBM,
> Lotus, Microsoft, WordPerfect, Xerox and others)."
> Even as long ago as 1990, artifacts such as the Atari ST set were
> considered obsolete antiquities, and did not rise to the level of the kind
> of character listings that we considered when pulling together the original
> repertoire.
> And there are several observations to be made about the "weird stuff" we
> have accumulated over the years in the pursuit of compatibility. A lot of
> stuff that was made up out of whole cloth, rather than being justified by
> existing, implemented character sets used in information interchange at the
> time, came from the 1991/1992 merger process between the Unicode Standard
> and the ISO/IEC 10646 drafts. That's how Unicode acquired blocks full of
> Arabic ligatures, for example.
> Other, subsequent additions of small (or even largish) sets of oddball
> "characters" that don't fit the prototypical sets of characters for scripts
> and/or well-behaved punctuation and symbols, typically have come in with
> argued cases for the continued need in current text interchange, for
> complete coverage. For example, that is how we ended up filling out Zapf
> dingbats with some glyph pieces that had been omitted in the initial
> repertoire for that block. More recently, of course, the continued
> importance of Wingdings and Webdings font encodings on the Windows platform
> led the UTC to filling out the set of graphical dingbats to cover those
> sets. And of course, we first started down the emoji track because of the
> need to interchange text originating from widely deployed Japanese carrier
> sets implemented as extensions to Shift-JIS.
> I don't think the early calculator character sets, or sets for the Atari
> ST and similar early consumer computer electronics fit the bill, precisely
> because there isn't a real text data interchange case to be made for
> character encoding. Many of the elements you have mentioned, for example,
> like the inverse/negative squared versions of letters and symbols, are
> simply idiosyncratic aspects of the UI for the devices, in an era when font
> generators were hard coded and very primitive indeed.
> Documenting these early uses, and pointing out parts of the UI and
> character usage that aren't part of the character repertoire in the Unicode
> Standard seems an interesting pursuit to me. But absent a true textual data
> interchange issue for these long-gone, obsolete devices, I don't really see
> a case to be made for spending time in the UTC defining a bunch of
> compatibility characters to encode for them.
> --Ken
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