The Baltic states, me, keyboards, and Microsoft

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2015/01/12 13:21 +00:00, original URI:

My relationship with the Baltic states started back in my junior year of high school, specifically in AP American Literature. I chose to analyze the symbolism and allusions of TS Eliot's The Waste Land, and quickly realized what a huge undertaking it was. Every line sent me scrambling to read the underlying meaning and symbolism behind it, until my "shadow" version of the poem was HUGE.

In any case, one line in particular is relevant to this blog, a line I still remember to this day:

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

Clearly we were talking about someone (and really a whole group of people) eager to establish an identity, and even more eager to establish an identity that is European, not Russian -- a feeling common to many in the Baltic states.

Years later when the importance of supporting the keyboard layouts of the Baltic states became clear, it was in the back of my mind. In ascending order of [apparent] difficulty:

• eesti keel (Estonian) & its ~1.1 million speakers, one keyboard layout was added to the NT source code tree in the end of April of 1996, and either it has been sufficient or the complaints have never reached me (and believe me, sooner or later the complaints would always reach me.

•lietuvių kalba (Lithuanian) & its ~3.2 million speakers, one keyboard layout was added to the NT source code tree in the end of April 1996 based on an OEM layout and named Lithuanian IBM. It was replaced in the end of 1998 by a better layout developed by a colleague from the Microsoft subsidiary. On the urging of several, a third keyboard layout was added named Lithuanian Standard that was developed with MSKLC and released with Windows Vista, but it was not made the default. The layout developed in the end of 1998 (first released with Windows 2000) has been the default for as long as it has been available.

• latviešu valoda (Latvian) & its ~1.3 million, two keyboard layouts [named Latvian and Latvian (QWERTY) by the way] were added to the NT source code tree in the end of April of 1996. After MSKLC was released, several people noticed that the Latvian (QWERTY) keyboard layout suffered from validation warnings, but to them I pointed out that the keyboard layout (which was not the default keyboard layout for Latvian anyway) was authored many years before MSKLC was developed! Then in the post Windows Vista timeframe, several complaints about supporting a Lithuanian standard but not a Latvian one also came out, but the Latvian standard was kind of a mess, supporting letters like Ō and ō that had been removed from the Latvian standard over fifty years prior! This came to a head in my blog inspired by reader Peter Klavins titled Wait til you see my õ (ō) Latvian edition where the ridiculousness of NOT supporting Ō and ō (admittedly out of Latvian for over fifty years) while simultaneously supporting Õ and õ (reportedly never in Latvian in the first place) was highlighted. I don't think Peter was liking the answer, but at least feeling like people were listening to the problem felt good to him. He probably also disliked the eventual answer, a Latvian standard keyboard made into the default, but that's because he was heard all those years and people wanted to solve the problem without creating industrial Microsoft-specific standards. most recently Dainis Jonītis (@dainis_jonitis) complained on Twitter to me: @michkap Windows (also 10) with Latvian keyboard can't enter "\" key. Only you can make some 0.5M+ people happy. @michkap Thanks for reply! No one uses LV Standard layout. We can switch to Russian/English just to enter \.

The irony here is that the main validation warning of the Latvian (QWERTY) keyboard layout (added to the NT source code tree in the end of April of 1996 if you'll recall!) is a lone \ (backslash) on the VK_OEM_102 key, meaning the requested punctuation symbol has been on Latvian keyboard layouts since the end of April of 1996, and it might have even been made the default if the original dissatisfaction with the keyboard layout for Latvian had focused more on the \ and less on the lack of Ōō/plethora of Õõ!!!!

As an interesting bonus, this particular blog post was authored with Windows Phone (my Nokia Lumia 1520), but I had to install a non-Baltic keyboard layout like Hausa to pick up the ability to type Ō and ō, although an Estonian keyboard layout had Õ and õ directly on the keyboard layout, with no need to hold down the O or o keys, neither of which I have especially strong feelings about the Windows Phone team needing to change at the present time....

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