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The Inscript keyboard overlay Printing Bhàratïya Bhàshà

Sacrificer           unknown
Sacrifice code       wfor0251
Sacrifice date       25 march 2009


For printing most of the Indian scripts, one needs hundreds of shapes,
which may need to be overlapped with each other. The Matras can be
attached on the top, bottom, left or right of a character. It is possible
to create all this variety easily by hand. How easy would this be through
a keyboard?

An English typewriter keyboard just had to provide for 26 keys for
accommodating the lower-case and upper-case alphabet, and a few more for
punctuations, numerals and special characters. A computer keyboard
provides 47 keys for accommodating these English characters. Is it
possible to provide an overlay on these keys, for typing characters in
Indian scripts?

If a different overlay is required for each Indian script, how will a
person be able to learn different overlays for typing the different
scripts which he knows. Wouldn't this create a barrier in the use of
different Indian scripts - hindering national integration itself?

The Inscript keyboard overlay has achieved, what was earlier thought as
not possible. It allows all the Indian scripts, to be typed in a uniform
manner. This means that a person knowing how to type in one script can
type in any other, since the keystrokes remain the same.

The Inscript overlay allows generations of the hundreds or thousands of
character combinations which may exist in a script, by typing just the
basic alphabet which gets easily accommodated on an English keyboard.

The Inscript overlay could achieve this miracle, by making use of the fact
that there are less than 70 basic letters in any Indian script. Although
the exact number of letters may vary in each script, they are all similar,
since they originated from the same ancient script: Brahmi. Brahmi
letters, had the vowels and consonants, categorized on a scientific and
phonetic basis.

Just the sequence of basic letters, spelt in the pronunciation order, is
sufficient to determine the shape of the written word. From this
"spelling" the computer software can display the word as accurately, as
any human expert possibly can. This is possible, since the computer can
store the hundreds of shapes which are required for displaying the variety
in the script, and can use intricate logic for composing these basic
shapes in an aesthetic manner on the display or paper.

When one can type in a word, in terms of its fixed spelling, the strain in
composing the word disappears. It then become possible for a casual user
or a touch-typist to type away, without having to check the screen
continuously for proper composition. It now becomes possible for the user
to remain in his thought plane, and allow his fingers to register his
thoughts in an automatic fashion, just like what used to happen with the
simple English script, with the English keyboard. All this is in sharp
contrast, with the mechanical typewriters available for an Indian script.
These had to compromise on the display quality, as only a limited number of character shapes could be directly typed through the keys. The user had to compose a word, in terms of the graphic shapes provided, bothering about the correct attachments. All this strained the person who used the language
typewriters, while printouts were clumsy. As a result an English typist
didn't want to work with the typewriters for other languages.

The Inscript overlay has proved that typing in any Indian script can be as
simple as that for English; inspite of the sophistication of these
scripts. This is because the layout of the overlay makes use of the
scientific and phonetic nature of the Indian script alphabet. This allows
the Inscript overlay to be learnt more easily than that of the scattered English
alphabet. Inscript keyboard has evolved through the GIST card and
terminals. GIST Technology started as a Department of Electronics (DOE),
funded project at IIT Kanpur in 1983. In 1986 the technology was
commercialized, and DOE published the Inscript keyboard standards [1]
which evolved from the GIST. Since then the Inscript keyboard has been
used throughout India, for a wide variety of applications in different languages. The common keyboard for all the scripts, has allowed grass-root missions like "Land Records" to be launched throughout the country. Today, the Inscript keyboard is part of the standards published by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) [2]. Its usage is mandatory for all the electronic and communication media.

Brahmi has been a basis not only for the 10 Indian scripts, but for
Sinhalese, Tibetan, Bhutanese, Burmese and Thai as well. GIST technology
has shown how phonetic keyboards, based on principles similar to that of
the Inscript keyboard, could do justice to these scripts.

In the fast changing world, everyone has to interact through computers -
everyone has to be "keyboard literate". In this world English and the
other scripts will have to co-exist. Unless these scripts can be typed as
easily as English, their usage can fade. Inscript keyboard ensures that
Indian scripts can proudly live along with English, in the Information Age.

For more information refer to :

1. "Report of the Committee for Standardization of Keyboard Layout for
Indian Script Based Computers", Electronics-Information & Planning, Vol.
14, No. 1, October 1986.

2. "Indian Script Code for Information Interchange - ISCII", Bureau of
Indian Standards document - IS 13194: 1991.



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