Keyboard Connection

As an amateur linguist, and a recent transplant to Japan, I really enjoyed your article "The Japanese Language Meets the Internet" (see page 60, May 2000). It put a lot of information in context for me that I was receiving neither from self-instruction books nor from explanations from Japanese coworkers and clients. In particular, your discussion of using a Western keyboard to retrieve characters, with some biasing formula to resolve homonyms, struck a resonant tone.

Before going to China on a computer tour in 1981, I had some brief instruction in conversational Chinese, plus some explanation on forming Chinese characters and doing a lookup in a Chinese-English dictionary. While there, I proposed to my hosts the idea of using Western keyboards to retrieve Chinese characters. My hosts, who showed me a very cumbersome machine to electronically reproduce characters stroke for stroke, said it would not be possible. On my return, friends and I began an experiment -- suspended and ultimately canceled when I sold my company -- to build such a Chinese word processor. I saw one from Taiwan that used a similar approach, but did not use romanized Chinese as its keyboard input. It just used unique nonsense codes. Later, I read that the Chinese had built a machine along the ideas I had proposed, and that one woman was achieving speeds of 60 to 70 characters per minute. Anyway, thank you for such an enlightening and readable article.

Cris Miller
NEON Japan KK

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