Unicode And Multilingual Computing
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08-04-2009, 10:40 AM


Definition

Unicode provides a unique number for every character,
no matter what the platform,
no matter what the program,
no matter what the language.

Fundamentally, computers just deal with numbers. They store letters and other characters by assigning a number for each one. Before Unicode was invented, there were hundreds of different encoding systems for assigning these numbers. No single encoding could contain enough characters: for example, the European Union alone requires several different encodings to cover all its languages. Even for a single language like English no single encoding was adequate for all the letters, punctuation, and technical symbols in common use.

These encoding systems also conflict with one another. That is, two encodings can use the same number for two different characters, or use different numbers for the same character. Any given computer (especially servers) needs to support many different encodings; yet whenever data is passed between different encodings or platforms, that data always runs the risk of corruption.

This paper is intended for software developers interested in support for the Unicode standard in the Solaris„¢ 7 operating environment. It discusses the following topics:

" An overview of multilingual computing, and how Unicode and the internationalization framework in the Solaris 7 operating environment work together to achieve this aim
" The Unicode standard and support for it within the Solaris operating environment
" Unicode in the Solaris 7 Operating Environment
" How developers can add Unicode support to their applications
" Codeset conversions

Unicode And Multilingual Computing

It is not a new idea that today's global economy demands global computing solutions. Instant communications and the free flow of information across continents - and across computer platforms - characterize the way the world has been doing business for some time. The widespread use of the Internet and the arrival of electronic commerce (e-commerce) together offer companies and individuals a new set of horizons to explore and master. In the global audience, there are always people and businesses at work - 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week. So global computing can only grow.

What is new is the increasing demand of users for a computing environment that is in harmony with their own cultural and linguistic requirements. Users want applications and file formats that they can share with colleagues and customers an ocean away, application interfaces in their own language, and time and date displays that they understand at a glance. Essentially, users want to write and speak at the keyboard in the same way that they always write and speak. Sun Microsystems addresses these needs at various levels, bringing together the components that make possible a truly multilingual computing environment.
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