[Python-Dev] Re: python/dist/src/Objectsunicodeobject.c, 2.204, 2.205

David LeBlanc whisper at oz.net
Sat Dec 20 00:32:26 EST 2003

> [Guido]
> > I would expect that a lot of our code assumes 8-bit characters, and I
> > personally wouldn't mind if Python was limited to such platforms.
> > They aren't very important for attracting new users, and certainly
> > they don't seem to be a growing kind of platform...  (Probably because
> > so much other software makes the same assumption. :-)
> Fine by me too.
> The first mainframe I used was a Univac 1108.  There were a *lot* of
> competing HW architectures at that time, and manufacturers didn't agree
> about character size any more than they agreed about floating-point format
> or semantics, or the natural size of "a word".  Univac was
> forward-looking,
> though:  they didn't want their hardware to become obsolete if a different
> character size than the one they preferred clicked, so a control
> bit in the
> CPU could be set to treat their 36-bit words as either 6 6-bit characters,
> or as 4 9-bit characters.  It worked!  We're *still* equally comfortable
> with 6-bit bytes as with 9-bit bytes <wink>.
> I was betting on 6-bit bytes at the time, because that also
> worked well with
> CDC's 60-bit words.  FORTRAN didn't even admit to the existence of lower
> case at the time, so 64 characters was way more than enough for anything
> anyone really needed to say to a computer.
> half-the-bits-in-these-new-fangled-bytes-are-just-wasted-ly y'rs  - tim

I would think the lesson to be learned from this is that one should not lock
the software into any particular number of bits per character. The coming
flood of 64 bit machines could make 16 bit unicode attractive. It's an ever
more global world and "we" should keep in mind that in the next decade most
of the world's programming is going to be done in India and China if
American corporations have their way.


Dave LeBlanc
Seattle, WA USA

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