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Authors: Witten, Ian H.
Keywords: Computer Science
Issue Date: 1-Feb-1981
Abstract: A scheme is described which enables users to interact with a timesharing computer in an ideographic language such as Chinese. The host computer runs a completely unmodified English based operating system, the necessary translation being performed by a preprocessing microcomputer which constitutes the ideographic terminal. The two systems communicate through a serial line, and the host sees the preprocessor as an ordinary (English) terminal. Although the examples are all drawn from Chinese, the scheme could equally well serve other ideographic languages like Japanese and Korean. After brief consideration of the terminal's keyboard and display, we examine the software problems of translation for six example subsystems - two interpreted programming languages, text editor, document preparation system, interactive database management system, and the command level of the operating system itself. The investigation shows that few limitations need be placed on the user's actions. For example, a suitable transliteration to alphabetics allows ideographic filenames to be used and manipulated quite naturally by operating system commands (which are themselves transliterated). The same transliteration allows ideographic text to be entered, edited, stored, displayed, and printed without difficulty. If text to be altered is located and specified by context (as is common with most modern text editors), rather than by character offsets, the transliteration must be designed to yield unambiguous pattern matching. Existing document preparation software can be used for ideographic text, although there is a difficulty if English and ideographics are interspersed within the same document. The most difficult subsystem to handle is the BASIC language, with its baroque syntax and non-contextual string matching operations: however, the paper shows how suitable action by the preprocessor can overcome all problems of standard BASIC except for operations which depend explicitly on ASCII codes.
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