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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Out of My Mind:
Using Land Rovers for Machine Translation


Headlines read “New strategies for software sales are spurring international growth,” “Vietnam: Hell, yes, Mac will go,” “Sales of software up in Europe,” “Macs thrive in South Africa.” The movement in the software localization industry in the last quarter has been significant. The recent seminars and shows from IBM, Miller Freeman, Sun and Comdex are evidence of the expanding interest in the global marketplace.

End-users are finding official releases of Microsoft Windows for Japanese, Chinese and Korean easily available in the U.S. Apple continues to release its language kits, with the latest addition bringing Chinese to the rest of the world. Continued upgrades and new releases of products enabled for multilingual support, including Nisus and Accent, are finding their way into the computers of users worldwide.

If we have been hungry for information and products, now we can feast. Multilingual computing as an industry is growing and the ability of this industry to satisfy our needs is becoming strong.

Yet, still there remains a vast unexplored universe of language computing. I read about super data highways, CD-ROM publishing, pen computing, computers learning to read minds, voice recognition, captioned TV and other emerging technologies. But I don't hear a word about how anyone intends these technologies to be language-independent. When I am in my couch potato mode, will I have the option of choosing which language to use when programming my TV or requesting movies?

I will give credit to some small circles out there that are very up on such issues. But they are still too few and far between. I'd like to see one of those fancy AT&T commercials on TV that comes right out and says their technology will work all over the world, no matter what language you speak. This will be bringing it to the masses.

In the meantime, I will be trying to continue to bring this industry together, get the information out there so we can move from the darkness to the light and gently push the industry to seriously consider the horizons.

Multilingual computing has come of age and affects every aspect of technology from computers to cars to microwave ovens. Will it some time be possible for me to jump in my LandRover and see the dials and gauges in any language I choose, speak commands to it for adjusting the heater and have it tell me when my engine is overheating in my language of choice?

For now, I will just continue to pursue language computing on my desktop and with my Macintosh. But I know what I do here is affecting many other areas of my life.

— Seth

January/February, 1994