A Brief History of Non-English Fonts in X-talk

Richard Gaskin ambassador at fourthworld.com
Wed Oct 30 16:49:44 EDT 2013

Mark Mitchell wrote:

 > So, 23 years after Hypercard could do it all, 23 YEARS!! and 13 years
 > after Revolution-Livecode could NOT do it… for the non-english font
 > users, life still sucks, and sucks badly.
 > If it was done so well in Hypercard… is it really that hard??

Apparently so, given that Apple -- the wealthiest and most powerful tech 
multinational on earth -- hasn't produced an OS that can run either 
HyperCard or the Japanese Language Kit in many years.

An alternate, shorter history of Unicode in LiveCode:

HyperCard was born in 1987, predating Unicode and is completely 
incompatible with it.

Unicode was first conceived in 1988, but it wasn't until the late '90s 
that most OS vendors began supporting it natively.

Many OS vendors experimented with OS-specific language kits, but when 
Unicode came along pretty much all of them were abandoned in favor of 
spending millions of dollars adopting the new standard.

When it was born in 1992, LiveCode engine originally focused on 
ISO-8859-1, giving it native support for a wider character set than 
HyperCard could handle without paying for additional add-on language 
packs in the one OS it could run on.

LiveCode first began its Unicode support with UI elements supported with 
bifurcated syntax to allow some aspects of Unicode to be used while 
maintaining the integrity and speed of the ISO text engine.

Further work has been done in various phases, and today the last big 
chunk remaining is Unicode-aware variables, which should take care of 
most remnant issues as well.

Some other specific aspects, like Unicode file names, may have to wait 
for the Cocoa updates, which are also in progress.

While one can argue that LiveCode should have adopted Cocoa the day 
Apple first announced deprecation of the older Carbon APIs, it's 
instructive to note that Apple themselves didn't update the most 
important application in the OS X experience, the Finder, until several 
years after that deprecation, and waited another two years to update 
their Final Cut Pro app to Cocoa (which also famously lost a big chunk 
of the market with its poorly conceived implementation - some things 
take time to get right).

If the wealthiest multinational in the tech world couldn't afford to 
update their most important app in a timely manner, we can expect 
additional time to be needed by less powerful companies.

For a good overview of the Unicode work to date, and an outline of the 
final steps in progress, see this article from the August newsletter:


  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World
  LiveCode training and consulting: http://www.fourthworld.com
  Webzine for LiveCode developers: http://www.LiveCodeJournal.com
  Follow me on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/FourthWorldSys

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