Tales from the Archives
James Kass via Unicode
unicode at unicode.org
Sat Aug 18 20:55:42 CDT 2018
Back in 2000, William Overington asked about ligation for Latin and
mentioned something about preserving older texts digitally. John
Cowan replied with some information about ZWJ/ZWNJ and I offered a
link to a Unicode-based font, Junicode, which had (at that time)
coverage for archaic letters already encoded, and which used the PUA
for unencoded ligatures.
At that time, OpenType support was primitive and not generally
available. If I'm not mistaken, the word "ligation" for typographic
ligature forming had not yet been coined. IIRC John Hudson borrowed
the medical word some time after that particular Unicode e-mail
thread. (One poster in that thread called it "ligaturing".)
Peter Constable replied and explained clearly how ligation was
expected to work for Latin in Unicode. John Cowan posted again and
augmented the information which Peter Constable had provided. The
information from Peter and John was instructional and helpful and
furthered the education of at least one neophyte.
Back then, display issues were on everyone's mind. Many questions
about display issues were posted to this list. Unicode provided some
novel methods of encoding complex scripts, such as for Indic, but
those methods didn't actually work anywhere in the real world, so
users stuck to the "ASCII-hack" fonts that actually did work.
When questions about display issues and other technical aspects of
Unicode were posted, experts from everywhere quickly responded with
helpful pointers and explanations.
Eighteen years pass, display issues have mostly gone away, nearly
everything works "out-of-the-box", and list traffic has dropped
dramatically. Today's questions are usually either highly technical
Recent threads related to emoji included some questions and issues
which remain unanswered in spite of the fact that there are list
members who know the answers.
This gives the impression that the Unicode public list has become
passé. That's almost as sad as looking down the archive posts, seeing
the names of the posters, and remembering colleagues who no longer
So I'm wondering what changed, but I don't expect an answer.
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