Sometimes people use code pages even when the code pages are really lame

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/07/17 04:31 -04:00, original URI:

It was over two years ago that I first pointed out the problems with Windows code page 20269 (Microsoft's somewhat lame attempt at an implementation of ISO 6937) in Not all code pages work right

And almost two years ago when I mentioned it again with some more detail in You probably don't want to use Microsoft's code page 20269.

But you may not want to go thinking that just because something is a bad idea out of step with the encoding industry with a bad MS implementation out there that people will avoid using it....

Just recently, in somewhat tangential response to Sometimes when you say 'the fix is in' you mean it in a good way, regular reader Cristian Secară commented:

Big countries, like Germany, France or Italy don't use subtitling in general, but there are also exceptions: in France for example, public programms uses voice doubling, while paid programms uses subtitling (VOST - version originale sous-titrée). Belgium and Holland uses subtitling. European Union directives forces the presence of special subtiling designed for audio impaired peoples. AFAIK scandinavian countries also uses subtitling.

Ok with that. But what I wanted to say is that – from my point of view – the real problem is that all these countries are, let's say, satisfied with the actual status quo: they either need no subtitling, or they are satisfied with the actual EBU subtitling format, which is based on the ancient telematic ISO/IEC 6937 standard that covers a limited number of languages. And I can't blaim them: if it ain't broke, why fix it ?

And just the other day someone was asking about the strange results that this code page provides, mainly in the context of entertainment devices such as television -- a place that people seemed to be embracing ISO 6937 despite all of its problems....

Because in the end, a lot of different folks seem to have embraced ISO 6937 despite all of its limitations and problems. Heralding our way into the next century is technology that seems quite stubbornly insistent on using the technologies of the last century. :-(


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Mihai on 17 Jul 2007 1:50 PM:

Moving out of code pages and into the more generic cultural issues, the subtitles vs. voice doubling is an interesting topic on it's own.

What are the pros and cons for each option? What makes a country use one over the other? What are the implications for someone growing in a "subtitles culture" vs. a "voice doubling" culture?

In Brussels, for instance, the theaters alternate the shows for French and Flemish speakers. The French show uses voice doubling, while the Flemish show uses the original soundtrack, with subtitles in Flemish *and* French.

Or at least this was the case about 10 years ago :-)

Cristian Secară on 17 Jul 2007 7:30 PM:

The problem with this kind of bizarre encodings comes from the need to support some kind of bizarre applications or specifications (which is worse). I don't think (or I hope it is not the case) that these encodings are required/requested for new projects on their own. Until associations like EBU will not understand the advantages (for some) and disadvantages (for some) to jump in year 20xx, support for standards like ISO 6937 will sill be required/requested in some way.

For curiosity, the EBU subtitling data exchange format specification, which is still valid today, says this (among other things):


“The medium for exchange is a 3.5-inch high-density portable magnetic disk (microfloppy). The disk is formatted for 1.44 Mbytes (2 sides, 80 tracks, 18 sectors/track).” [from Chapter 2]


Therefore, according to EBU, if I want to exchange a subtitle, I have to search for an old computer that is (hopefully) still equiped with a 1.44 Mbytes floppy disk. I have to make sure it can handle all 2 sides, all 80 tracks and all 18 sectors/track...



“The datafile format [...] is based upon the operating system MS/PC-DOS, version 3.3. If other operating systems are used, the datafile must be readable and writeable with MS/PC-DOS, version 3.3.” [from Chapter 3]


Therefore, according to EBU, if I originally saved the subtitling file with the name, say, “movie from monday 2006.11.25.stl”, before exchanging the subtitle, I should first rename the filename to “MOVIEF~1.STL”...

So perhaps still keeping the support for Windows code page 20269 might be a good idea :)


Yuhong Bao on 17 Jul 2007 10:23 PM:

Ever worse, the spec allows only a few codepages for text and is from 1991!

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referenced by

2007/08/30 The main criteria in determing whether a code page sucks? Suckage, of course!

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