Originally, I wrote this
message to a list of people who don't understand SignWriting, but
do understand Unicode and Font technologies.
I'm happy to announce that an official proposal for the symbols of
the ISWA 2010 may be a reality sooner rather than later.
Unofficially, the proposal for the symbols as plain text has
already been finalized through the Center for Sutton Movement
Writing. The Unicode characters are a small but important aspect
to the ISWA 2010 standard. Some of the character names may change
a little, and additional specifications for the ISWA 2010 will be
Above the symbols, there is a standard data format for the
SignPuddle data and several potentials encoding models based on
general ideas and researched theory. Fortunately, we'll all be
able to use the same symbols no matter how we encode the details
above plain text.
For the SignPuddle data, I know we need better editors. I'm
hoping that Open Office becomes a reality through SIL's Graphite
sometime this year. Imagine using SignWriting in a spreadsheet
and having it sort properly. Cut and paste with the SignPuddle
data will be a reality. I am one step away from a font file, then
we can try a custom Graphite viewer and printer. It will be based
on SVG. It is greatly needed for text and book presentation.
Rather than the current editors, publication is the real
Later, keyboarding shouldn't be that hard to restart, although
perfecting a smooth typing system will take time to develop and
Many ideas for text editors will be tried, all using the same
symbols. Different encoding families will use the same symbols,
but with different founding philosophies, so that a conversion
between the data will be required. Below I try to explain my
encoding family and ask for your reaction.
Here's the soapbox
Imagine if you will that Valerie created a hotpress catalog of
symbol glyphs: 37,811 of them. You can imagine each as a physical
block of metal. The history of hotpress is very interesting for
Asian scripts. Thousands upon thousands of tiny blocks of metal
organized by topic and size. Each publishing house had a unique
and prized collection of slugs. This attitude continues with font
files and technologies. There are amazing craftsmen who do
amazing things with text.
In the western world, a much smaller set of hotpress characters
created the printing press and mass communication.
Since hotpress chunks are physically bound, they can not overlap.
Recent advances in font technology have enabled glyphs that morph
and can overlap. There are several competing visions for how font
technology should work on the computer. It's often platform
specific. I believe True Type is very different that Open Type.
So it is a real concern how the Unicode specification and the font
features are implemented on a wide variety of platforms and
Interesting article here:
I live in a different world.
Cold type is based on the precise placement of potentially
overlapping images. Historically, some publication houses used
cold type technology. Images were optically displayed and
captured by film negative. SignWriting has roots in the cold type
Amazingly, Valerie has already passed through the printing press
stage. Wax symbols were dipped in ink and individually placed on
a master sheet for copying. The painstaking work continued for
some time. It was never mechanized and dropped out of favor. One
Wikipedian confused the wax & ink printing with handwriting.
He foolishly dismissed the writing system as too slow to be
practical because he didn't understand.
I have continued that vision with the catalog of symbols that
Valerie created. It was a unintended continuation, but my work
has many historical precedents. I take this as proof that we are
writing grammatically correct. Grammar can not be imposed, but
must be created by a group of people over time and discovered
after the fact.
With a cold type mentality, I allow the writer to become the
fontographer. We agree that I will not change the general size
and shape of the symbols and that I'll remember the precise
placement of each symbol. The writer has the choice to create
something new using Valerie's symbols or can use something
previously written by themselves or another human being.
When the writer has made their choice, I consider it rude to
fiddle with the appearance. Suggestions can be offered based on
previous writings, but nothing should be forced.
This is the writer taking part in the design and perfection of the
visual representation. I respect the writer and Valerie's cold
To simplify SignWriting's cold type technique, several rules were
made and one truth was uncovered.
1) Each symbol has a general restriction for size and shape
2) Symbols do not change size individually
3) Symbols do not rotate
I found out that given a cluster of symbols, I can always
determine the correct visual center. No matter what symbols the
writer used. No matter where the writer placed the symbols. A
simple algorithm could find the center. Very important for sign
This vision has shaped the existing SignPuddle data.
I hope some of you share the same vision.