[UA-discuss] Legacy Technologies and Universal Acceptance

Michael Casadevall michael at casadevall.pro
Mon Jul 22 18:38:28 UTC 2019

Hey all,

So following with the Tech WG call earlier today, I branched a question
on legacy technologies and their interactions with UASG. I don't think
it's a secret that a *lot* of infrastructure on the Internet often runs
on either old versions of modern programming languages, is entirely
obsolete, or otherwise not the forefront for new developments.

I want to open a broader discussion on how we should handle these types
of cases; i.e., document ways to implement/store IDN/EAIs?

For context, here's a few places where Unicode either wasn't supported
at the time, or are just obsolete but still common. This isn't an
exhaustive list, just an idea of the types of systems that I know are
still around at least to some extent.

== Mainframe Systems/EBCDIC ==

Mainframes aren't obsolete by any measure, but due to backwards
compatibility, most of them don't even use ASCII as a standard encoding
but the EBCDIC specification, such as z/OS. Often times these systems
host databases and reporting software (Mainframe DB2, not to be confused
with the more common DB2), and still have production code written in
COBOL, RPG, and other programming languages that have moved on to
greener pastures.

While these systems may not necessarily be directly webfacing, storing
user information and email addresses (as well as communication with SMTP
servers) is common, as well as text based systems interacting with these
in the form of terminal emulator/3270 entry systems.

== Visual Basic 6/ASP (not .NET) ===

VB6 is (sadly) not dead, and I know a fair number of organizations which
can't migrate to VB.NET. The basic String data type in VB6 does support
Unicode due to its COM hertiage, but much of the VB6 ecosystem still
runs on codepages and older technologies for internationalization
support. That being said, having a COM object for EAI/IDNs is much more
doable here than some other systems.

== dBase ==
Still exists (http://www.dbase.com/), and even still supports the
MS-DOS versions (last update 2018!). There's no public documentation
that I can find in a brief glance that talks about Unicode support.

Obviously I could find more, but this gives an operating system,
programming language, and database where Unicode is either non-standard
or non-existent but may be used with handling IDN or EAI storage.
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