Prof M A’s contributions to Tamil Computing
During the period 1992 – 2002 as Advisor to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on Information Technology and e-Governance, Prof. MA initiated several key moves to promote Tamil computing in India
1. 8-bit encoding and keyboard standards for Tamil
Responsible for organizing the second Tamil Internet Conference in 1999 in Chennai with two main objectives, declared essential at the earlier 1997 Singapore conference: An 8-bit font/character set encoding scheme for Tamil to standardize the Tamil fonts and keyboard layout for Text input directly in Tamil.
Two font encoding schemes worked out at this 1999 conference, a bilingual Eng-Tam encoding TAB (Tamil Bilingual) and a monolingual 8-bit scheme called TAM (Tamil Monoingual). After review of several possible candidates, Tamilnet99 keyboard layout proposed by Prof Ponnavaiko was approved with minor modifications. Since then Tamilnet99 keyboard has become de facto standard for text input and now part of MS Windows OS and Apple Mac OS.
2. Launch of TVA:
formation announced by CM Kalaignar at the 1999 Chennai Tamil Internet Conference, was ofifically inaugurated in Feb 2001 with Prof M Ponnavaiko as the first Director. Profs. M A and V Kulandaisamy served in the Advisory Board of TVA for many years
3. Launch of INFITT. founder chair 2000-2002, Ex. Committee member and Advisor: participated in all Working group discussions and in Tamil Internet Conferences
4. Tamil Unicode
In 2000 full support for Tamil Unicode was enabled in Windows OS and became the default encoding for Tamil. Apple support for Tamil Block of Unicode came a few year later. Tamil Block content in Unicode has been controversial in Tamilnadu, due to its modeling on Devanagiri as the base standard and Tamil as a small variant (instead of dealing with Tamil independent as a key member of the Dravidian Languages family).
In addition to his role as IT advisor to TN Govt, Prof also headed the IT Task Force of the Tamilnadu Govt, charged with the review of the multilingual Unicode encoding scheme.
Prof MA took several steps to promote constructive dialogue between Tamil Diaspora experts and Unicode Consortium on the other.
i) Tamilnadu Govt signed on as a regular member of the Unicode Consortium. This way TN Govt can send his representatives to Unicode Technical Committees dealing with Asian languages. Prof. Ponnavaiko and Mani Manivannan have participated on behalf of TN Govt in few UTC meetings in California,
ii) Concurrently As INFITT Chair, Prof also led an international panel of experts reviewing the Tamil block of Unicode in the INFITT Technical Working Group.
INFITT Working Group WG02 for Tamil Unicode was instrumental in working out the different views and visions of many Tamil computing experts. At the 2002 Tamil Internet Conference held at San Francisco, INFITT Ex. Committee members (including Prof MA) met the Exe. Board members of Unicode Consortium to work out a liaison direct communication channel between Tamil Diaspora groups and the Unicode Consortium. Mr. Michael Kaplan agreed to the request to play this key liaison role, which he did admirably for many years till his untimely death in 2006.
INFITT facilitated direct interactions with several key UTC members dealing with the Tamil block, in particular Drs. Mark Davis, Peter Constable, Cathy Wissink and Lisa Moore. Cathy Wissink has participated in Tamil Internet Conference to present the UTC approach to the Tamil block. Dr Lisa Moore (Vice Chair Unicode and Chair UTC) participated in the 2009 Tamil Internet Conference held at Singapore to present UTC vision and work out the differences in views.
5. All Character Encoding TACE
To meet the growing demand of many in Tamilnadu, particularly from the print press that Tamil should have an all-character encoding, TN Govt under Prof. MA advisory role formed a tech working group to define one such scheme TACE. TACE was formally submitted to Unicode. After long deliberations, Unicode agreed to recognize TACE as the additional encoding for Tamil and place it in the supplementary plane SMP.
6. Launch of TIDEL PARK in 2000
TIDEL Park is an information technology (IT) park situated in the city of Chennai, India.
The name TIDEL is a portmanteau of TIDCO and ELCOT.