Tales from the archives

James Kass jameskass at code2001.com
Mon Nov 1 10:11:57 CDT 2021

Recently someone mentioned how a public list thread can generate nuggets 
of insight even when the topic being discussed may be controversial 
and/or the thread might have a tendency to veer off topic.  Reviewing 
threads spanning April and May of 2004 in this list’s archives affirms 
the accuracy of that observation.

While the threads being reviewed were ongoing, there were other 
conversations related to Unicode, such as why UTF-8 worked for Plane Two 
in a certain browser, but didn’t work for Plane One.  Additional 
discussions covered planned extensions to existing blocks as well as 
scripts which might be encoded in the future (as most of them were).

But the discussion I examined was related to a script proposal by 
Michael Everson.

Real and imaginary characters were brought into the discussion, such as 
George Custer, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ezra the Scribe (and Ezra the font), 
Martin Bormann, Potter Stewart, Cerberus the three-headed dog, Popeye 
the Sailor Man, Alexander the Great, and Hannibal (not Lecter) — some of 
whom might be considered off topic.  Even Chang and Eng popped up.  A 
neologism was coined which never gained currency.  The thread and its 
spawn became so popular that the topic itself was banned from further 

During the threads, Michael Everson shared information about how he, Ken 
Whistler, and Rick McGowan had set up the Roadmaps guided by the history 
and long-established studies of the world’s writing systems.  Various 
posters provided insight to UTC deliberations and considerations as well 
as procedural information about other standards bodies.  Definitions of 
some words as used in Unicode jargon were compared to how those same 
words were defined elsewhere, and some of the Unicode usages were 
further clarified.  Some list members offered their backgrounds and 
fields of interests, revealing considerable diversity among members.

At the time, standardizing ancient scripts was fairly novel, so 
precedent and procedure were nascent.

Ken Whistler made a post about determining whether a script should be 
considered which is well worth revisiting:

Ken expressed the concepts clearly using language and phrasing 
understandable even to the casual list visitor.  Not only do those 
principles Ken outlined remain germane today, they are expected to 
continue to guide Unicode into the future.

The Unicode public list archives are a treasure trove of information 
about Unicode and the history of the project.  We should all be thankful 
that they are available and well maintained.

Best regards,

James Kass

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