NLA - Management Summary
The dramatic growth of the number of end-users who use computers has been a phenomenon not only in North America but world-wide. In the traditional data processing world U.S. English is a fact of life. But today end-users are asking to be fully supported in their national language and their national customs for presenting all types of information, including text, date, and number formats. This is a major part of a user friendly system. This also means that the computer-system must provide the full repertoire of associated characters. These demands can be summarised in one sentence: Technology must support culture, not destroy it.
The following activities are not possible today at all:
- A company in France uses electronic mail services and sends messages including prices in various currencies. The typist in the US uses the Dollar symbol on his keyboard - and it is still a Dollar sign on the French screen or hardcopy.
- The mother tongue of a person at a help desk in Switzerland is French, but as a person trained in Germany he uses a German keyboard. He receives a call from an end-user in Italian. So the help desk person switches his environment according to customer language.
- Someone in Spain is working on a German text, but prefers English help texts. He needs a German dictionary and spell checker. But he uses a French keyboard, and so on.
- A programmer in Norway creates a FORTRAN program for use in Spain. Program comments are in Norwegian, text constants are in Spanish.
- The data base of a multi-national company contains names of all their employees in correct spelling. Users in Iceland, Brazil or Poland can view and update data correctly.
Activities of most companies become multi-national, especially with the opening of the European market. Hence the users of Information Systems will no longer use only one language or live within a distinct cultural environment. Competitiveness calls for IS-applications which can be used by much more people than current applications.
The various problems encountered in today's data processing software and hardware were put together in the SEAS White Paper on National character, language and keyboard problems (1985) . An architected approach was requested from IBM at that time. But when SAA was announced in 1987 National Language Support was not part of that architecture.
The purpose of this paper is to specify the elements of a National Language Architecture. When implemented the NLA will eliminate or reduce the problems described in detail in the White Paper of 1985.
This proposed architecture must be implemented both in all SAA platforms and in the AIX environment to allow for portability of applications not only within SAA.