A Message to GNU/Linux Hackers

Steven J. Searle

Web Master, TRON Web

In the last couple of months, I have received e-mails from GNU/Linux hackers interested in the TRON Multilingual Environment and TRON Code. It turns out that they aren't very happy with Unicode. Welcome to the party, as we say in American English. Unicode was never a very well though out endeavor, and the way it is being forced onto people overseas only guarantees that it will meet resistance. This has certainly been the case in Japan, but it is surprising that even speakers of European languages are fed up with it. Remarkably, one of the hackers opined that Unicode was a concession to East Asian peoples, since Europeans do not need a two-byte encoding system to encode characters that can be encoded with a single byte. Please, please, please do not accuse the Japanese people of being behind a Unicode plot. The four-byte encodings that the Unicode folks have planned for East Asian characters are totally unacceptable to the Japanese people.

For the record, the future unabridged kanji character set for data archiving in Japan is most likely going to be GT Font that was drawn up at the University of Tokyo. Also for the record, this font project was never a subproject of the TRON Project, since the TRON Project is not in the character set creation business. The TRON Multilingual Environment only provides a framework for loading others' character sets into it, and, in fact, it already includes the non-kanji portions of the Unicode standard. So why is GT Font most likely going to become the future unabridged kanji character set for data archiving in Japan? Two reasons: it's royalty-free, and it's supported by the largest printing companies in Japan. Two other unabridged kanji character sets have been created in Japan: Konjaku Mojikyo and eKanji. The former is no longer royalty free for commercial users, and the latter was intended to supplement the original two-byte Unicode standard.

The GT Font is already available for use on other architectures, and it can be downloaded from the Web free of charge. However, the GNU/Linux hackers writing to me are more concerned about "true multilingual capability," which means they want what the original ISO 10646 standard was aimed at before the Unicode forces took over that standard and perverted it. TRON Code was originally supposed to be compatible with pre-Unicode-influenced ISO 10646. In fact, I worked with researchers at the Sakamura Laboratory back in the early 1990s who were studying how to make the TRON Multilingual Environment compatible with it, and I still have a copy of a portion of the original ISO 10646 standard on my bookshelf. The sad fact of the matter is that people play politics with standards to gain commercial advantage, and the result is that end users suffer the consequences. This is the case with character encoding for computer systems, and it is even more the case with HDTV.

So let me give the GNU/Linux faithful, particularly those who would like to try to port the TRON Multilingual Environment to their architecture, some advice. First, invite Prof. Sakamura to one of your annual events, such as Linux World. You can invite him as either the TRON Project Leader or as the Editor-in-Chief if IEEE Micro magazine. He wears many hats. In fact, invite him to speak on this very topic. He'd be more than happy to give a presentation on it. Second, contact Japanese GNU/Linux hackers and ask for their help in obtaining information on the BTRON architecture, and maybe even some programming tips. Those people know a lot, although some of them may have difficulty expressing themselves in English. Finally, keep an eye on Personal Media's Cho Kanji developer's Web site. Mr. Akira Matsui of Personal Media informed me that due to requests from GNU/Linux hackers, English translations of B-right/V R2 documentation and the BTRON3 Specification will be posted there.

I am in possession of English language information on the TRON Multilingual Environment and TRON Code in the B-right/V R2 documentation, so if anyone needs it, just send me an e-mail, and I'll forward it to you.