Problems of Symbol Congestion in Computer Languages

Ian hobson42 at
Fri Feb 18 13:27:19 CET 2011

On 18/02/2011 07:50, Chris Jones wrote:
>   Always
> struck me as odd that a country like Japan for instance, with all its
> achievements in the industrial realm, never came up with one single
> major piece of software.
I think there are two reasons for this.

1) Written Japanese is so hard that the effective illiteracy rate in 
Japan is astonishingly high.

Both UK and Japan claim 99% literacy rate, but UK has 10-20% who find 
reading so hard they
don't read. In Japan by some estimates the proportion is about half. 
Figures from memory.

Result - too many users struggle to read instructions and titles on 
screen. Help texts? Forgetaboutit.

2) Culture. In the West, a designer will decide the architecture of a 
major system, and it is a basis
for debate and progress. If he gets it wrong, it is not a personal 
disgrace or career limiting.  If it is
nearly right, then that is a major success. In Japan, the architecture 
has to be a debated and agreed.
This takes ages, costs lots, and ultimately fails.  The failure is 
because architecture is always a trade off -
there is no perfect answer.

I was involved in one software project where a major Japanese company 
had done the the feasibility
study. It was much much too expensive. The UK company I worked for was 
able, not only to win the bid,
but complete the job profitably for less than the Japanese giant had 
charged for the feasibility study.
We ignored their study - we did not have time to read through the 
documentation which took
10 foot of shelf space to house.


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