SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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November 24, 1997

SUBJECT: Upcoming Computer Program Changes

Hello Stuart!
I forwarded your previous email message to Rich Kadel, our computer
programmer, who is programming SignWriter 5.0 in Java. Here are his answers
to your questions:

Stuart Thiessen wrote:
>1) Are there any plans to put SignWriting in the Unicode structure
>that is being developed? If so, what are the ranges that have been
>reserved for SignWriting? Could there be some things that can be
>learned from the way Chinese or other ideographic writing systems
>have been utilized on computer systems?

Rich Kadel wrote:
Yes and no. SignWriting doesn't really lend itself to general Unicode
support. We felt that the only way to use SignWriting in Unicode-based
programs was to define each full sign as a character. (Current Unicode
editors would not support the positioning characteristics of SignWriting if
we tried to do this by symbol instead of by sign.) But the number of
possible characters is essentially infinite, so we can't "reserve" space for
individual signs.

We are going to use Unicode, however, by dynamically creating Unicode
"characters" as the program runs. We are reserving a little space for
typical ASCII characters, and probably also for fingerspelling. The
remaining 65,000 or so Unicode entries will be available for the signs that
are created as the program runs. Since each sign is almost the equivalent of
a word, this will limit the number of unique "words" used in a program to
about 65,000. Since many words are repeated, this should be more than

Stuart Thiessen wrote:
>2) Have there been any breakthroughs with using SignWriting outside
>of the SignWriter program (e.g., databases, spreadsheets, desktop
>publishing, etc.)?

Rich Kadel wrote:
With the scheme outlined above, we are able to use SignWriting in all of our
Java components, including buttons, menus, text fields, and tables. We
expect to eventually develop a Chat program to go along with the SignWriter
word processor. We have not build any other applications.

Stuart Thiessen wrote:
>Just wanted to check on where things were with that. I realize there
>are not extensive computer support personnel either. But I was just
>wondering about these questions.

>Stuart Thiessen (
>Omaha, Nebraska