I wrote this message to a list of people who don't
understand SignWriting, but do understand Unicode and
I'm happy to announce that an official proposal for the
symbols of the ISWA 2010 may be a reality sooner rather
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 cataloged.
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 bottleneck.
Later, keyboarding shouldn't be that hard to restart,
although perfecting a smooth typing system will take
time to develop and master.
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
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
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 devices.
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 family.
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
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
This is the writer taking part in the design and
perfection of the visual representation. I respect the
writer and Valerie's cold type vision.
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
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 text layout.
This vision has shaped the existing SignPuddle data.
I hope some of you share the same vision.