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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Sun Jan 3, 1999  8:29 pm
Subject:  SignWriting Report Jan. 3, 1999

January 3, 1999

Happy New Year Everyone!!

I hope you all had time for celebration this new years. Certainly my family
and I have been very very blessed, and we all feel most fortunate. Happy
1999 to you all :-)

So.....what will happen with SignWriting in 1999? Have any of you made your
own New Year's resolutions regarding SignWriting? What would you like to
see happen this year?

In regards to my own personal resolutions....I have several. I can tell you
about the other resolutions later, but one of them is SignWriter 5.0. If
what I did on New Year's Day is any indication, then my 1999 will be
dedicated to SignWriter 5.0!

Right before Christmas, with the hubbub of the season and family and guests
swirling around me, I completed a thick document for our computer
programmer to implement. We call that document "Symbol ID Changes, Phase
2". Then, on New Year's Day, I took my family to the airport, and came back
home and immediately started the next document, "Symbol ID Changes, Phase
3." This is the last document. I just sent it to our computer programmer 30
minutes ago, so you can see it took me two and a half days of full-time
work. It is now in our computer progammer's hands to implement.

I admire our programmer, Larry, for his patience. He is a slow and careful
worker, which is absolutely outstanding, because this is horribly picky
work. In 1998 I was working with other computer programmers, who were
considered to be the best Java programmers in San Diego, and by some, in
the entire USA. They received a big contract with the USA government in
Washington to program java applications for the military, and they suddenly
did not have time for SignWriter 5.0. They did things quickly, without
paying attention to detail, and so I decided to change programmers. It was
a painful decision for me, but a necessary one. We are most fortunate now
to have Larry, who is dedicated and interested in SignWriter 5.0. So
hopefully 1999 will see the beginning of a real program for all of us.

This holiday our family changed - we used to have lots of gifts. But this
year, it seems that "things" just don't matter very much - it is important
to have love and a firm foundation for families. That's what struck me,
watching my ten-year-old nephew, Andrew...It was not "things" that made him
happy, but something to do that felt worthwhile. I am sure that is true for

And that is what is happening with SignWriter 5.0 right now...we are
building a firm foundation that can then be used for many other programs
later. At the moment we are not "building in features". The features are
almost like toys - they sit "on top" of the foundation. So features can
always be added, but if I do not do a good job with the symbol set - which
is SignWriting's foundation - then we will all be sorry later.

You are probably thinking..."Isn't the symbol set finished by now?"
Yes....but not all those symbols were incorporated in the software. In
other words, we can always write everything by hand, but could we type
everything by computer?

The answer is...No. In the old SignWriter 4.3 for MS-DOS...we ran out of we had to make our choices at that time, many years ago. We
could not incorporate everything, nor could we foresee all the changes and
improvements that would occur to the symbol set. So at that time, I had no
choice but to "trick the old computer program" to type new symbols, even
though there was no "real place" for them. How did I do that? I temporarily
"hid symbols" under other symbols. This was a clever way for us to test and
experiment with new symbols. And now, with SignWriter 5.0, I am trying to
"clean up the mess". I am taking those symbols out of hiding, and placing
them in their own unique "ID Numbers". But that changes all the other ID
numbers too - like dominoes that fall one by one.

And then there are other issues too..more and more people are using
SignWriting now, and they are demanding more advanced symbols, that were
always in the large Movement Writing system, but were not used in
SignWriting before. So the symbol set is enlarging. And, as more new signed
languages get involved, added handshapes are needed. We could always write
these symbols by hand, but they were not in the SignWriter computer
program, version 4.3.

When we started SignWriter 1.0, back in 1986, we were only typing a few
signed we are typing 15 and some of them have some
handshapes that are simply not used in American, Danish or Norwegian Sign
Language. For example, I know that Spain needs several more handshapes
added to be able to type everything. The nice feature about SignWriter 5.0
is that I will be able to expand the symbol set without limits in the this problem in the future has been solved. Larry and I are
simply trying to clean up the problems of the past, and as we do so, we are
trying to make sure that old files will always be able to be converted.

So that is what has been taking my time in the past few days. And now I
will start the new lesson online, which is supposed to be posted tomorrow,
January 4th. So you will hear more from me soon -

All my love and best wishes to all of you in 1999!

Valerie :-)

Valerie Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee for SW


Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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