Why type matters #1

Failure to support the dotless i character in Turkish cell phone causes two deaths. Note to unnamed cell phone company: fix your bug.

No, it’s not April 1st any more, and I couldn’t make up a story this good. I got tipped to it from this article in Gizmodo.

Basically, in Turkish the dotless i is a different character than the i with a dot. Incorrectly leaving the dot on in displaying an SMS message from another cell phone led to a misunderstanding which culminated in a self-defence killing and a suicide.

Reportedly, most cell phones in Turkey don’t support the dotless i (which in the article is called a “closed i” – I’m using the font geek term instead).

Now, one might wonder why the cell phones lack Turkish localization support. Is it because of the expense of localizing (tailoring to a specific market) or globalizing (supporting more or all markets)? Are many Turkish cell phones grey market imports because they can be had cheaper that way?

Even if all cell phone companies were to localize their Turkish offerings, the same story could have happened with Turkish immigrants living in another country. In a perfect world, we would have cell phones everywhere that supported all the world’s languages. Of course, that’s not about to happen any time soon.

But at least it helps raise awareness of the issue, and perhaps more folks will think about how much language support they can squeeze into a product, and the costs and benefits of doing so.

One Response

  1. A sad story, but the moral drawn from it is important.In the Arabic monoline* sans-serif font I am finalizing the dots are larger than usual – so much so that I was criticised for it. But if one considers that it is dots alone that distinguish pairs or triplets of otherwise identical Arabic letters from each other, I think I am justified. Once one accepts the large round dots the font is very legible at small sizes._________* Thanks Phinney for the nomenclature tip on Typophile!

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Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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