4.0248 Recent Articles in the Popular Press (1/67)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 5 Jul 90 16:06:22 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0248. Thursday, 5 Jul 1990.

Date: Wed, 4 Jul 90 10:39:18 EDT
From: elli@harvunxw.BITNET (Elli Mylonas)
Subject: Press Clippings (64 lines)

Recently, I noticed a clustering of articles in the popular press that
may be of interest to HUMANISTS. It struck me that these publications
are all pointing out problems (and solutions??) that are familiar.

"The Next Frontier is the Text Frontier" Business Week, 6/18, pp. 178,
180. This was brought to my attention by a colleague, Sebastian Heath.

This article points out the difficulty in performing retrieval on text
that is not in database or other structured format. Because this is
Business Week, it mentions text retreival as a $98 million and growing
industry, and goes on to discuss research in this kind of software-
Verity's Topic software and GESCAN's hardware-based system . Also
Information Dimensions Inc's Basis. In addition to the introduction to
the problem of full text retreival that is given in the article, there
is a side bar on (you guessed it!!) hypertext. This is just a brief
definition of the term, with a reference to Ted Nelson's _Computer
Lib/Dream Machines_. Products mentioned are Apple's HyperCard, Autodesk
and Nelson's Xanadu (almost product) and Folio Corp.'s Views.

"Gothic Mystery: Pixelated Probe Pries Prose from Palimpsests" Scientific
American, July 1990, p. 28.

This is a short exposition, in the "Science and the Citizen section in
SA, on James Marchand at U of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. He is using
ultraviolet scanning and image enhancement in order to read Gothic
palimpsests. He is able to get very good results from this, and has
also been able to get reproducible pictures of the codices. Marchand
also wants to use this methodology to publish more manuscripts. The
column does not really explain how, but it does mention that he has a
typeface based on the scribal hand, which he uses to create facsimiles.
(Seems to me that this requires new data entry however, which is another
project again...) Finally, the column mentions that he "dreams of
expanding his basement scrivener's den into a national archive for the
storage and analysis of digitized manuscripts." SciAm point out that
this would "put the pressure on those nonpublishing scholars and
uncooperative archivists who monopolize a large share of the world's

Ben Smith, "Around the World in Text Displays" Byte, May 1990 p. 262-268.

A basic exposition of the problems facing those who want to compute in
languages that are not English, or worse yet, character sets that are
not Roman. It describes the technology different systems use for
handling diacritics. Packard's Ibycus gets some press, as well as
Zondervan's ScriptureFonts. The article continues with a description of
the difficulties of Chinese and Japanese. It concludes with a truly
wise sentiment:

"Until the problem is attacked at that level [international standards]
international users will be forced to make do with ad hoc solutions. Not
that we need more standards; the existence of YAT (Yet Another Standard)
would only make the problem worse. We just need to change our mind-set
from "I can do it better" to "We can do it together." This is a good
basic introduction.

Also, Avital Ronell's _Telephone Book_ was reviewed in the NY Times
by Robert Coover. it was in the Sunday Book Review, but I have
misplaced my copy, so I can't say exactly when.

what strikes me most about these columns and articles is that
the problems many of us are trying to solve are becoming more
prominent for the general computing world. They are not just
strange requirements of a restricted group engaged on arcane work,
as humanists are sometimes viewed by the industry.

--Elli Mylonas, Perseus Project, Harvard University