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Neat article by Jon Hanna: Entry-Level Unicode for XML

A few excerpts:


The Unicode Standard is one of the most readable books ever to have the word "Standard" in its title and an online version is freely available (https://www.unicode.org/versions/Unicode4.0.0/ch01.pdf). Really you should go and read that instead, but people often don’t when I say that. So here’s something shorter that’ll help you out a bit and hopefully also make you realize that this stuff is interesting in itself and you’ll be convinced the book’s worth taking a look at.


When I say "XML application" in this document I’m referring to a type of XML document combined with a specification as to how it should be used, as such XHTML, RDF/XML and SVG are XML applications. I am not referring to the software that processes or produces such documents, although they are also referred to as applications in different contexts.


Just what is a character? Is 'a' the shape you can see if you are reading this on screen or page, or is it the sound you can hear if you are using a screen reader, or is it the pattern of bumps you can feel if you are using a Braille reader? Is the 'a' in "nap" the same as the 'a' in "nape"? Is 'a' the dot-dash of Morse Code, or the 0x61 of a byte in a computer’s memory?


None of these descriptions are adequate descriptions of the letter 'a'. Yet young children manage to handle the concept of 'a' well enough to set them on the path to learning to read and write. If a two-year-old can manage it then it can’t be that hard!


Clearly 'a' is an abstract concept. Talking about it as an abstract concept is difficult, as are most abstract concepts, but we can recognize the relationship between this concept and the shapes, sounds and other communication methods.




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