Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 577.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2002 07:39:03 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: accented characters
Members of this group should know that the problem kindly pointed out by
Wilhelm Ott and Stefan Sinclair (whose name this problem now prevents me
from transmitting in its true form) is now, once again, under
investigation. From what I have been able to determine none of the
email-processing software (at Princeton, Virginia and King's College
London, including my own client) is responsible and neither is Listserv (at
Princeton). Apparently the fault is in the revised version of the digesting
scripts, written a couple of years ago for us by a kind programmer who
happened to be passing through London and whom I persuaded to spend a day
or so devising her ingenious scheme and implementing it. I say "apparently"
because the fault has not yet been found in these scripts, only nowhere else.
I should also explain that the problem has been with us for a long time. If
memory serves (which it often doesn't) previous attempts to fix the problem
were met with a kind but firm "go away" from various people on various
systems now no longer involved. Meanwhile, it seems, communications
software has improved in ways I only observe but do not understand, so that
more generous encodings of a wider range of characters pass through
unharmed. No doubt if I understood these better and had more time or an
actual budget with which to improve Humanist the problem now vexing us
would have been taken care of silently, long ago. But, yes, it is easier
just to use English (or Latin, as Wilhelm Ott noted) for those of us to
whom it comes naturally, and yes linguistic laziness is a problem for those
of us afflicted by severe monolingualism -- which perhaps can be cured, but
(as David Reed noted) the treatment is long and doesn't always work for
people of an advanced age (i.e. past puberty).
This has, please note, always been a seat-of-the-pants operation. All the
effort put into it (by the folks at Princeton, Virginia, King's College
London and elsewhere) has been and continues to be volunteered. The rewards
have been (at least for me) beyond the imagination of any Midas, but we're
still broke and still have to put our hand out every time something goes
wrong. This is not at all to say or suggest that the problem of vanishing
characters should not have been diligently pursued long before this, just
that among life's clamourings the multilingual voices have not been loud
enough. Now, it seems, they are, and that's a good thing. Humanist is all
about speaking up.
Many thanks for your patience while very kind people I have never met toil
away at IATH in Virginia.
Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer,
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London,
Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.,
+44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/,
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