TUNE (Tamil Unicode NEw) is a proposed 16-bit alternate encoding scheme for Tamil developed by TVU (Tamil Virtual University) and KTS (Kani Tamizh Sangam). You can download the CD Content from here (24MB Zip File), that was distributed.
After nearly two decades of intense efforts by its members, Unicode is the single, universal character standard for all digital text. It has widespread implementation and usage. It is considered by technical experts as a fundamental technology that the digital world is very dependent on the stability and future extensions of the standard, even though it may not be apparent to you.
All major computing platforms today use only Unicode as the default encoding for all of their worldwide (including Indian Language) implementations in their latest releases. Popular Microsoft Products today have 100% support for Tamil texts based on Unicode, this includes Windows XP, Office 2003, .NET Framework, SQL Server & more. Other vendors to support Tamil in their latest products including Apple in OS 10.4 and Redhat in their RH 4.0. From a developers perspective, Unicode is the only character coding standard support in all major technologies including .NET, Java, HTML, XML, Web Services, Regular Expressions, WML and more.
This state of maturity of Unicode took 2 decades of development. Today all languages co-exist in a single universal encoding without overlapping.
In this background, it is important to understand why TUNE is unnecessary.
- It is important to understand that Unicode is only a character coding system designed for Interchange, say through file systems or through the Internet. Almost all of everyday applications like Web Browsing, email, Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Mobile Applications and Database works very well in Tamil (Unicode) just like in English using Unicode.
- It is possible to do all computing tasks (Document creation, Printing, Searching, Sorting, Calculations, Spell checking, Database and more) in Tamil Language using present Unicode 4.x.
- President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, in his letter to Tamil Internet 2004 conference last year (and to the conference in 2003 in Chennai), suggested Tamil search engines and internet application architecture as two key areas for the consideration of the language experts in the country and that these initiatives should adopt Unicode as the standard. It is heartening to note that today Popular Search engines including MSN Search, Google and Yahoo today support searching of Tamil Texts based on Unicode in the World Wide Web. Apart from Unicode, they don’t support any other coding system used anywhere else in the world.
- TUNE efforts have been solely limited to Tamil Nadu (TVU/KTS) and haven’t had any visible interest shown by rest of Tamil speaking nations. Any Global Tamil Text Standard has to have the endorsement of not only MNC’s but the various Tamil speaking country’s governments as well. This includes apart from Tamil Nadu Government, Government of Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and others. We should remember that for these nations apart from Tamil, any coding scheme has to support their primary native language and say English. Even in India, Tamil needs to co-exist with other Indian languages. This is possible only with the usage of Unicode.
- The biggest challenge facing Tamil Computing world is not Unicode, but the fragmentation into groups of incompatible encodings. Many of the users are so confused with the plethora of 8-bit encoding schemes for Tamil (TSCII, TAB, TAM, ISCII and other proprietary schemes).
- World-class software development companies (including those from and in India) rely on a time-tested standard (Unicode) that is governed by a body of Industry experts who are supported by leading vendors who implement or incorporate this into their products. With TUNE, the Tamil community will be made to depend on few developers – thus limiting access to the pool of world-class software.
So there is no need for “yet” another coding scheme. A new scheme will only further alienate Tamils in the Digital Era and will delay their integration into the worldwide. What is needed is for all Tamil speaking nations to actively promote the usage of Unicode and encourage research on further refinement of the same.
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