An amazing journey from Shahid Lipi to Avro

Published in the Daily Star on 28 April 2010

LIKE many chapters of our national history, the amazing journey of digital Bangla — from English to Bangla computing — remains largely unknown. Conversant persons should record that history for the new generations. This article however is not an effort to write that history. Rather, I share with you how few geniuses of our time are changing the way we write Bangla on our computers.

There were three major challenges for Bangla to be written using a computer — Bangla keyboard, software for the background processing (the main programming), and fonts to display the characters.

Computer keyboards inherited the QWERTY layout (placement of alphabets on keyboard) from typewriters, which were developed in 1874. So instead of inventing a Bangla keyboard altogether, all we needed for Bangla typing was to determine where to place Bangla alphabets on an English keyboard — be it for typewriter or computer.

In 1965, Munir Chowdhury developed a Bangla layout for a typewriter’s QWERTY keyboard to reduce jamming of type-bars and increase the typing speed. This was the first scientific Bangla layout. It was later used in computer keyboards.

But for a computer, having a keyboard “layout” is not enough. We needed software that could process the meaning of the pressed Bangla-labelled key, and fonts-set that could show the Bangla alphabets on the computer screen. Read more of this post