Linked by Eisel Mazard on Thu 14th Jun 2012 22:01 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes The average computer user might think that the number of languages their operating system supports is pretty long. OSX supports 22 languages, and Microsoft claims to support 96, but they're counting different regional dialects multiple times. But there are over 6000 languages, and though many of them are spoken by a dwindling few, there are some languages that are spoken by millions of people that are supported very poorly, if at all, by computer operating systems. The reason for the support being poor is that the people who speak those languages are poor, and are not good "markets." It's only because of the efforts of a few dedicated people that computing support for languages such as Burmese, Sinhalese, Pali, Cambodian, and Lao have been as good as they are, but the trends for the future are not good.
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Fascinating article
by KLU9 on Thu 14th Jun 2012 23:36 UTC
Member since:

the world is much larger than the nations that produce comic books that are read by computer programmers.
Oh no you di''n't!

But seriously, fascinating article. Although I do feel it missed an opportunity, namely: why was language support so much better on older Mac OSes than now?

The implication in the article is that it isn't commercially interesting to Apple to support them. But surely living languages like Burmese or Khmer are more commercially viable now than in the 1980s, not less.

Maybe there's some greying ex-Apple employee who could be tracked down to offer the straight dope. Was the greater support back then the result of financial support? Some technical issue? A senior employee who just had a love of languages?

Fingers crossed for such a follow-up ;)

Reply Score: 4

RE: Fascinating article
by zima on Fri 15th Jun 2012 11:50 in reply to "Fascinating article"
zima Member since:

But surely Apple isn't the same company as back then...

They were pretty much the first with thorough and sane support for Polish alphabet (versus simply exchanging similarly looking letters in firmwares, in original DOS code page, Ł instead of £ for example; to be fair, pretty much the only approach without access to source code; contributed to rarity of PL keyboards - we mostly just use US keyboard, right Alt as AltGr in combination with original Latin letter for diacritics).
And afterwards also with the first, IIRC, properly localised OS - when not only Macintoshes were prohibitively expensive (relatively, here; think in the range of annual salary), severely limiting their potential market, but also possibly still under CoCom embargo (as all 32-bit CPUs, I believe), at least formally. Also pretty much the only computers equipped often with PL keyboards.

That was of course relatively simple, compared to the issues from the article - "just" adding diacritics to few Latin letters, and quite straightforward translation into similarly structured script (mostly by some members of the relatively large Polish diaspora, I guess).

Still - yeah, why? Wishing to quickly take over DTP in then-emerging markets? (or education some time later, where proper localisation and keyboards were undoubtedly desirable; though there was possibly more behind that choice... - from 3rd section, "Furthermore")
Maybe also to accommodate the needs of diaspora?

Anyway, now they are a company which openly states their aversion to target "lesser" poor people, aims for the "premium" ones...

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Fascinating article
by Jaktar on Sat 16th Jun 2012 17:28 in reply to "Fascinating article"
Jaktar Member since:

"why was language support so much better on older Mac OSes than now"

Profiteering. As Thom already said, it takes paid workers to do all this stuff. In an effort to make another dollar, Apple is allowing this to happen. Their mantra of "Our way or the highway" pretty much sums it up. They already know what you want and they are giving it to you.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Fascinating article
by mrstep on Mon 18th Jun 2012 03:13 in reply to "Fascinating article"
mrstep Member since:

Why was the OS X support better? Well didn't you hear: "Mac's OSX is now in its creaking (error-ridden) final years".

Huh? It's significantly more stable and well tuned for multi-core/multi-processor work thanks to the great Snow Leopard release. Lion not so much... But there are a whole lot more creaking, error-ridden languages out there, and it sounds like some of them may be dead before OSX.

Anyway, I agree, the more relevant question would have been why they have been dropped from OS X and whether these areas can somehow promote the inclusion of their languages in OS releases. Given the likely lack of economic incentives and presumably (at least in the case of OS X which is targeted to Apple hardware) lower user base thanks to at least marginally higher cost, it's maybe more surprising the support for these languages has lasted as long as it did. There's a fair bit of extra overhead to keep those languages up to date, not to mention support for more esoteric character handling.

Very cool to see a mention of Hawaiian self-determination though. The U.S. history of treatment of the Philippines, Hawaii, etc. are truly disturbing, especially given how little of it is explained in the U.S. education system. Of course the Japanese attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, but... Hey, that wasn't actually part of America. How did a U.S. naval base end up there? How about in the Philippines? Fun stuff - so much dirty history that gets glossed over if mentioned at all.

Reply Parent Score: 1