[clari.nb.trends] Hongkong Computer Society Standardizes Chinese

newsbytes@clarinet.com (02/04/90)

CAUSEWAY BAY, HONGKONG, 1990 JAN 30 (NB) -- The Hongkong Computer
Society has embarked on a scheme to establish international
standards for the use of Chinese characters in computing.

One of the great advantages of the Chinese language is that, in
theory at any rate, any literate Chinese person anywhere in the
world can read the writings of any other Chinese, regardless of
the spoken dialect. The significance of this becomes especially
apparent when you realize that a Cantonese speaker cannot
understand the speech of a Shanghainese, or a Pekingese that of a
native of Szechuan. They all, however, share exactly the same
written language.

At least, that is true up to a point. Cantonese - the dialect of
Hongkong and neighbouring Guangdong Province - in particular, has
its own modern idioms not easily expressed in traditional written
Chinese. In any case, in a attempt to facilitate literacy, the
Chinese government has long been trying to perfect a simplified
system of characters. It requires a knowledge of at least three
thousand different traditional characters just to read the
simplest newspaper.

Other Asian nations also use characters based on Chinese -- the
Korean and Japanese languages derived from Chinese, the Japanese
have long been using simplified characters and Chinese is one of
the official languages of Singapore. Unfortunately, with the
exception of some individual characters, Japanese, Chinese and
Korean readers are not able to read each other's languages.

This is the background to the Hongkong Computer Society's (HKCS)
drive to establish international standards. Even without the
confusion over differences in characters for the same word
arising from the developments outlined above, the widespread use
of modern communications technology is hindered by a
proliferation of systems for using Chinese characters in

The HKCS points out that internationally agreed standards are
essential for the input and internal processing of Chinese
characters if such developments as EDI - Electronic Data
Interchange - are to be accessible to Chinese users.

HKCS Chairman Richard Li says different countries and users in
the region use different expressions for the same technical
terms. To prevent future chaos, some sort of international
agreement must be reached.

The Society is inviting all interested countries to participate
in discussions and presentations on this issue at the Hongkong
Computer Conference '90 scheduled for May. It has also extended
an invitation to Chinese manufacturers from around the world to
demonstrate their various schemes for handling characters.

(Norman Wingrove/19900203/Press Contact: Stephen Chung, 
HKCC '90, + 852 542 1678)