Invention of New Word Processor for Japanese Language
By Hideki Nakazawa (Artist)
Computer graphic tools for drawing pictures can roughly be divided into two; paint tools and draw tools. As for word processors or text-editors for writing or editing, however, there has existed only a single type which corresponds to the idea of draw tools in the graphic world.
What I have now invented is a new text-editor based on the idea of the paint tools, quite different from any other conventional word processors. The new word processor is more suitable for the Eastern ideographic language system than the Western phonogramic one, and it offers an industrial standard which will first properly manage the structures of Japanese and other Eastern languages. This is the first open text on the word processor which might become a savior of the Japanese language, if I may be allowed a little exaggeration.
Let me first explain about paint tools and draw tools; the former is a graphic tool based on the bitmap-concept, the latter is a graphic tool based on the object-figure-mode.
The bitmap-concept regards the whole as "a gathering of parts." Precisely speaking, the visual of CG is considered to be "a gathering of (obvious) small square dots arranged on a plane of coordinates." It has long been my theory that the above-stated idea is based on a Dimokritos-like atomistical world view, and that, if seen from the viewpoint of the Western art history, it is based on the Renaissance period's Venetian school which put priority to colors.
The object-figure-mode regards the world as "the revelation of a certain law." Precisely speakng, the visual of CG is considered to be "an (accidentally) visualized calculation of a certain equation." It has long been my theory that the above-stated idea is based on a Platonic idea-ism-like world view, and that, if seen from the viewpoint of the Western art history, it is based on the Renaissance period's Florentine school which put priority to forms.
Now let's think of a page of a text. The way how you regard it decides your type: the bitmap-concept type, if you regard it as "a gathering of obvious letters arranged on a plane of coordinates"; the object-figure-mode type, if you regard it as "a certain meaningful substance accidentally visualized using letters."
Although the order is reverse, the standpoint that takes "words are just the way of conveying meanings" regards a text as a certain meaningful contents accidentally visualized using letters, which has already been indicated by the one-dimension-like phonetic sound. Therefore, that case is enough with the latter, the object-figure-mode. You can use draw tools for writing comments, essays, or long novels, which give higher priority to the contents than the words themselves.
On the contrary, the standpoint that takes "instantly recognizable two-dimension-like letter arrangement is more useful for understanding than the meaningful contents" regards a text as a gathering of obvious letters arranged on a plane of coordinates. Therefore, in that case, you should have the former, the bitmap-concept's idea. You should use paint tools when you put the top priority to the visual orderliness as seen in a polite formal letter or a fixed form of verse.
Therefore, you now understand that conventional high-functioned word processors which can design a planning document or the like are draw tools with strengthened paint functions. And a simple text editor which is easy to use when you write informal e-mails or the like can be interpreted as a slim draw tool. My main invention this time is of a text editor which corresponds to a slim paint tool. Another invention of a paint tool with strengthened draw functions is also now under way.
Such oppositions seen in "paint/draw" and "bitmap/object" are just like discerning the direction of the very invention from some distant mountains. So let's approach the mountain from the right route and let me directly interpret the meaning of the invention. Here comes a rather long interpretation:
There are two ways to put letters; one is to place them by choosing a coordinate value for each letter within the given coordinate system, the other is to arrange them sequentially as a row of letters.
The former has been developed in the Eastern languages which are characterized by the ideogram. The system of the regular manuscript paper used in Japan, for example, is the one which, after the coordinate system of letters (of the same size) has been fixed, places each strong visual letter to a chosen coordinate value which shows the visual location. On the other hand, the latter has been developed in the Western languages which are characterized by the phonogram. The system of the manuscript of handwritten cursive alphabets, for example, is to fix the one-dimension-like phonetic sound swiftly on paper as it is as a sequential row of letters of a phonetic record (of not necessarily the same width).
As for the industrial standards of letters, there are the ASCII code in USA, the JIS Kanji code in Japan, and so forth. When putting them as letters and modifying marks, that is, as character codes, there also are the two ways; one is to place them by choosing a specific address corresponding to the visual location for each character code as in the former way, the other is to arrange them sequentially as a row of character codes as in the latter way. Actually, however, the text styles taken by Japanese word processors, such as the ASCII-style text or the row of JIS Kanji, are based on the latter way, and eventually the management of character codes based on the former way has been neglected in the past.
(A page of) a text based on the latter way is the APPARENT two-dimensional plane, that is, a text is theoretically the one-dimensional row of letters which is simply folded back at the end of each line. Therefore, it is difficult to design letter-arrangement on the two-dimensional coordinates, unless the simple data structure is modified. In other words, the demand for "designing letter-arrangement" can only be supplied through handling complicated procedures, such as the adjustments of the number of letters in a line, control codes for starting new lines or the like, modifying codes for putting a blank letter or the like, and functions of simply folding back at the end of each line or the like. In the case of the conventional word processors with so-called high-functions, it is their programs that act those complicated works for them. And, this control method for the one-dimensional line theoretically makes you impossible to get rid of the restriction of "the input direction of letters," so you cannot input freely regardless of the direction, vertical or horizontal.
Even if you managed to succeed by taking such a great trouble in designing letter-arrangement on the two-dimensional coordinates, the design depends on your word processor's file system or its text-style. In other words, when you try to use the complicated file in some other systems through e-mail or the like, it tends to be destructed under some different circumstances. Therefore, it should be of "a simple data structure" for the recycling possibility and publicity of the data, and furthermore, for the beauty of the data itself. But, as stated above, that is fundamentally incompatible with the solution of the demand for "designing letter-arrangement."
My invention was accomplished taking those things into consideration. Precisely speaking, it is a text-editor based on the former way, that is, to place them by choosing a specific address corresponding to the visual location for each character code. With this text-editor, you can practice "designing letter-arrangement" through the same "simple data structure." Furthermore, "the input direction of letters" can freely be changed, and a certain design can commonly be used among different systems. It must be the long-awaited industrial text-editor for Japanese who have been used to the regular manuscript paper, the typical system of the two-dimensional coordinates.
My invention of the text-editor was motivated by two things:
One of the motivations is my former invention, "Device for processing a three-dimensional image," for which I applied a patent in 1996. What I actualized the invention is the world's first bitmap 3D tool, "Digital Nendo," which was published in the same year by Ask Kodansha Company.
During the process of the invention, I came across an idea that "an attribute which should be alloted to each bitmap 3D coordinate value is not necessarily a color attribute." And then, "a letter-mark attribute is also acceptable," and finally it led to the idea of the coordinate-type bitmap word processor. In short, the invention of the very word processor was a part of that of "Digital Nendo."
Conversely speaking, letters in the very word processor correspond to colors. In the systems which can treat up to the 2nd JIS standard, you can regard this word processor as a paint tool which can deal with 6345 kinds of colors. This story does not contradict my works' theme, "arbitrariness is an essential quality of a computer," seen in "Attempt on Invisible Function" or the like. In other words, a computer is nothing but an equipment which accelerates "arbitrariness of words," as was quoted by Saussure.
The other motivation occurred to me by some incident by which I felt that it was my mission to invent this type of a word processor. One day last year, 1996, I had my assistant make a sales report. When she handed in a text editor made by a simple text editor, I found that "it did not look so beautiful though she put a lot of blank letters" to design it like a table.
I always think that a simple form is the best, so I have more faith in a slim paint tool than a paint tool with strengthened draw functions. Likewise, I prefer a slim simple text editor to a high-functioned word processor. By the way, a text editor is a draw tool, so a proper usage suited for a draw tool makes its data look beautiful, which means that draw-data look beautiful if you depend on a starting-new-lines system avoiding using blank letters as much as possible when you need to design it.
Her text data handed in at that time, however, had no uniformity in design and did not look beautiful because many blank letters were used meaninglessly, and Western letters whose letter-width is different from that of ours were also mixed in. So I had to instruct her how to make beautiful data, and while I was doing that, I strongly felt like this: "If it was a case of a Japanese regular manuscript paper, what she tried to do was not wrong, was it?" "The way of designing using blank letters as she tried to do is rather a natural idea for a Japanese, isn't it?" "This text editor is originally made for the Western languages, so don't you need any proper text forms for the Japanese language?" The incident made me remember the idea of the coordinate-type word processor, and I realized again that "what mattered was that there was no simple text editor based on a paint-type conception." As a paint tool has no conception of starting new lines, so using many blank letters is rather reasonable. (In the bitmap there is no concept of "nothing exists," but it is interpreted as "there exists a blank." For example, in a paint tool, the first stage is not a vacant space but a color of white. Likewise, there is a color of transparent in "Digital Nendo.")
Therefore, what I wrote in the lead of this report, "the word processor might become a savior of the Japanese language," is my sincere feeling. With such a word processor, my assistant need not have gotten the above instruction from me.
One of the attendant discoveries during the invention is that the structure units themselves are different between the Eastern languages and the Western languages. People often say that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet while there are innumerable letters in kanji (the Chinese characters). I rather think, however, what corresponds to a single word of English is a single letter of kanji, and what corresponds to an English letter must be the left-hand radical or the right-hand radical of kanji. The English language which puts priority to a phonetic sound arranges letters, including even a component of a word, on the first dimension, while kanji which puts priority to a visual matter arranges even a letter with the left-hand radical or the right-hand radical on a kind of the second dimension. As is the case, you should resist with a faith and moral the industrial situation in which the West takes the leadership, where they control Western letters and kanji in the same way like on the first dimension, though you may have accepted it for its convenience. If not, the priority principle of a phonetic sound will eventually conceive that "the Eastern languages are inferior to the Western languages." The conception is right as long as you put priority to a phonetic sound, and the opinion of kanji-is-needless is utterly correct.
Speaking of the Eastern languages, the Chinese language, whose single letter equals a word and self-explanatory, is a much more genuine bitmap language than the Japanese language as you can understand from the above. (In that meaning, Chinese classics should be kept being taught at schools.) On the other hand, the Japanese language has mixed a phonetic symbol called "kana" into kanji, and yet, until recently, we have dealt our language with morals by treating the size of "kana" equally with that of kanji in the Japanese regular manuscript paper. But, these days, as the development of industry, many Japanese quickly tend to forget the morals under the influence of the draw-type. I do hope that the very invention of mine would cause a stir in such a situation.
[Written in April, 1997]