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introduction - Volume 5 Number 3

CURRENT ISSUE - Volume 5 Number 3 Jane C. Blake,
Managing Editor

Engineering products for international markets is a multifaceted undertaking, as it entails the adaptation of computer technology to the unique and varied ways cultures communicate in written languages. The papers in this issue describe some of the cultural and technological challenges to software engineers and their responses. Topics include conventions of culture and language, internationalization standards, and the design of products for local markets.

Product internationalization begins with identifying the cultural elements and user expectations that the software must accommodate. Tim Greenwood has written a tutorial that provides insight into the cultural differences and the complexities of written languages as they relate to product development. Among the topics he discusses are scripts and orthography, writing directions, keyboard input methods, conventions for values such as time, and user interfaces.

As a counterpoint to the complexity of languages and cultures, industry engineers and organizations have developed internationalization standards that lend simplicity and uniformity where possible. Unicode, described here by Jürgen Bettels and Avery Bishop, is a significant internationalization standard that accommodates many more complex character sets than does 8-bit ASCII; software produced using Unicode character encoding can be localized for any language. The authors discuss the principles and reasoning behind the 16-bit encoding scheme and considerations for application processing of Unicode text. They conclude with approaches for the support of Unicode and reference the Microsoft Windows NT implementation.

Wendy Rannenberg and Jürgen Bettels have written a paper on another important standard, the X/Open internationalization model. X/Open supports multibyte code sets and provides a comprehensive set of application interfaces. The authors examine the benefits and limitations of the standard, referencing Digital's DEC OSF/1 AXP operating system as an implementation. They close with proposed changes to the model.

René Haentjens' paper is not about a standard per se but about the ways in which various cultures order words and names and the methods used in computers to emulate this ordering. He examines the table-driven multilevel method for ordering universal character strings, its variations and its drawbacks. The implications of Unicode relative to ordering are also considered. The development and adaptation of software for use in local markets is the common theme of three papers. In his paper, Gayn Winters identifies several programming practices for the development of distributed systems and discusses the benefits of modularity in systems and in run-time libraries to reduce reengineering effort and costs. However, as Michael Yau notes in his paper, reengineering is necessary for systems designed when English was the only language supported in computer systems. Michael presents an overview of the engineering challenges encountered and resolved in the creation of local variants of the OpenVMS operating system to support the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean languages. A third paper, written by Hiro Yoshioka and Jim Melton, provides a case study of a coengineering project, i.e., a project in which engineers from the local environment (or market) join in the product development process. The case references the internationalization of the DEC Rdb database (specifically for Asian markets) utilizing an SQL standard.

The concluding paper focuses on software designed to facilitate Japanese keyboard input and to reduce reengineering/localization effort. Takahide Honma, Hiroyoshi Baba, and Kuniaki Takizawa review the methods of Japanese keyboard input and then describe a three-layer, application-independent software implementation that is embedded in the operating system and offers users flexibility in the choice of an input operation.

The editors are grateful to Tim Greenwood, an architect of Unicode currently working in the Software Development Tools Group, for his help in coordinating the development of papers for this issue and to Gayn Winters, Corporate Consulting Engineer, Groupware and Shared Engineering Services.

NOTE TO INTERNET USERS: Recent back issues of the DTJ are now available in ASCII and PostScript formats on gatekeeper.dec.com in the /pub/DEC/DECinfo/DTJ directory.

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