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[WMASTERS] History of Tamil Computing and Tamil on Internet


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Selva wrote:
> As I've said many times, we need to write an authentic
 >history of tamil computing ( Prof. Hart might be
 >surprised to know there were tamil even in PDP-11
 >computers and CP/M based systems) where due credit
 > and recognition will be enshrined

Kannan wrote:
>This is an intresting discussion. I have started a thread on this long
>time back in Tamil.net. Has anyone written an article on chronological
>development of Tamil fonts. This is very important for digital tamil
>history. I have my own tamil font for Mac and I still use it !

As indicated in the above recent postings, many in these mailing lists
have indicated the need to have an authentic history of tamil
 computing (this includes development of tamil fonts/text editors to
resources on internet). I would like to give my 2-cents worth of info.
that I have. My interest in this area is rather recent  (less than ten
and so I cannot comment much on very early work except to quote 
what I have read elsewhere. I hate to indulge in the exercise of citing
names without a systematic search. I repeat, given below are my
random thoughts and recollections. I stand to be corrected and seek
apology for notable omissions.

Early this year when I was trying to write up my presentation for
the TamilNet'97 conference, I searched the internet to find out what is
available in the form of fonts and DTP packages. I found quite a
number and have given a broad overview of these packages in my
write up (available under the URL
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/5180/sintalk1.html      )
I should caution everyone that the above summary is a description
of the state of affairs as of today and in no sense a historical survey.

Sujatha in an article in kaNaiyAzhi (Feb. 95) have made extended
remarks on the early days of tamil computing. I give below crude
English translation of some relevant parts here:
"Relationship between tamil and computers started as early as seventies.
As part of the efforts to print Hindi lexicon, DCM (?) establishment 
introduced a software for tamil called THIRUVALLUVAR. The high
price tag of Thiruvalluvar was one of the reasons for its not getting
adequate popularity. This was followed by publication of tamil text
editors by private establishments in big cities such as Bangalore and
Pondicherry. Zenith Co of Auroville and SRG of Bangalore were some
of the leaders. These people developed methods of inputting tamil
texts into personal computers (PCs) so that the tamil text can be 
displayed on screen and also used for desk-top publishing. These
tools were used in publishing houses and in schools......."
(end of quote) 
Probably Sujatha could elaborate more on these.

Word-processing in Tamil using personal computers really took off
possibly from early/mid-eighties. In the north-american continent,
ADAMI probably was one of the early tamil word-processors
for MS-DOS PCs produced by Dr. K. Srinivasan (in the info. part
of Adhawin it is stated that Adami was released in 1984 for CPM-80 
computers!). Prof. Harold Schiffman was also one of the early
pioneers of tamil computing in north america. His tamil font
 (washingtontamil)  developed while he was still at the Univ. 
of Washington at Seattle forms part of many TeX-based 

In south asia, Bharathi apparently was one other early tamil
text-editorpopular in south asia from eighties (Venus is a recent
version of this running under Windows).
During my last visit to Singapore, I learnt that word-processing 
in tamil became quite extensive in Malaysia and Singapore area in the 
late 80s with the introduction of several commercial DTP packages of
Naa. Govindasamy, Muthu Nedumaran, Ravi Paul, Sivaguru
Chinnaiah and others.

North american continent and Europe saw the development of
many softwares in eighties that were based on transliterated/romanized
format with option to display the equivalent tamil script form.
Many authors have made pioneering contributions. I have 
listed a number of such text-editors in a web page devoted to this
(http://www.geocities.com/Athens/5180/tamil8.html). ITrans of
Avinash Chopde, Madurai of Bala Swaminathan, XLibTamil of
Gnanasekaran Swaminathan, PCTamil of Vasu Ranganathan are
some of the packages widely used to quote tamil texts in USENET
newsgroups even in the eighties.
Regarding Tamil fonts for Macintoshes, I was aware of  
the tamilaser font of Prof. George Hart and of Palladam of 
T. Govindaraj  (both freely available on the internet in early nineties)
when I set out to make Mylai tamil font.

Govindasamy wrote:
>These are the facts:
>1.  TamilNet Font encoding, from Singapore is the technology that made
>Total Tamil Internet solution possible, when it was officially launched
>in Singapore on 2 Feb 1996. (http://irdu.nus.sg/tamilweb)
>2.  Prior to the official launch, the prototype  of the TamilNet font
>was made public on Internet, when  H.E. Mr Ong Teng
> Cheong, President, Republic of Singapore,   launched 
>   PoemWeb,  (http://irdu.nus.sg/poem)  on 27 October 1995.
>3.  TamilNet font from Singapore is the encoding that made the Total
>Internet solution possible for the Tamil Language. ( George, for your
>info, Inaimathi font came to Internet only in May 1996, that is three
>months after TamilNet encoding was made public on internet!)

Many of the participants in these forums know that Mosaic and
Gophers were the pre-runners to the present day version of
WWW/HTML that allow information exchange between computers
physically placed far apart. Electronic archiving of tamil literary
classics and making them available to the internet public were made
possible only through these advances. So it is useful to reflect on
some very pioneers in these areas. There may be many who might
have build up personal etext collections of tamil stuff on their private
computers. But to my knowledge, it was Dr. Thomas Malten of the 
Univ. of Cologne who was the first to engage in systematic electronic
archiving of tamil texts and importantly making the resources available
to the general/internet public. I was well aware of the gopher services
their Inst of Indology and Tamil Studies in early nineties when the
mosaic and gophers were just taking off. IITS was the first to 
distribute through gopher select etexts of sangam period. Since
the standards for tamil computing were not well established, it
was smart on the part of Malten to archive tamil etexts in
format. Possibly Prof. Hart can add more on Malten's pioneering

On grass-route efforts involving the internet public, I can only
cite the early initiative of Prof. Parthasarathy Dileepan of Univ. of
Tennessee in Chattanooga. In a posting to soc.culture.tamil of
19 May 1994, Dileepan solicited the assistance of volunteers to
keyin the "Nalayira DivyaPrabhandam" using popular packages
of that time (Adami, Madurai, ITrans,..) (I have a copy of this
posting saved in my computer). It was a successful one
and partipants included people like Selva and Srinivasan of Adami.
Srinivasan wrote a special software called Thiru that can digest
tamil etext files of these different software pacakges. Many have
used the Adhawin for windows later on to put up webpages
of internet (including Kumar Mallikarjunan with his Abirami

In a three-part posting of 30 May 1994 to soc.culture.tamil
newsgroup, I launched the idea of building a tamil electronic 
text library on the internet..
Many people enthusiastically responded to this idea. I have
pleasure in indicating here that my first personal contacts 
with people like Kumar Kumarappan, Selva, Srinivasan,
Dileepan were made only as a their enthusiastic support to my
proposal. For my personal reference, I still have copies of the
correspondances I had with these in mid-1994. I made the
Mylai tami font specifically for use in etext archiving and 
free distribution on internet. I have been distributing Mylai 
free since early 1994.
In another posting to soc.culture.tamil newsgroup dated
25 May 1995 I announced to the internet public on the
availability of tamil electronic library website with associated
free distribution of mylai font and related tamil etext files.
(for those interested I can send a copy of these postings.
SCT postings are archived in several public sites such as 
MIT and can be downloaded directly and dates verified. )

In a very short span of less than three years, tamil computing
has flourished with enormous pace. We have several tamil
newspapers and magazines that are available online.
In my opinion, inclusion of the <font face> tag in the
recent HTML version was a significant boon for reading
tamil texts of Web resources in tamil on screen.  Before
that, users have to select the tamil font each time to read
a tamil page and put it back when done. This was painful.
Today we have several hundred tamil sites on internet.
As part of the tamil electronic library, I have attempted to
compile some (if not all) of these sites under the url



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