VietNamNet Bridge – In 2014, Unikey, the most popularly used Vietnamese input method running on Microsoft Windows management systems, is 20 years old. This is believed to be the only software product which can exist for so long in the technology world, where technology solutions get backward everyday.
Pham Kim Long.
Unikey was programmed in 1994, when Assembly was popular. Pham Kim Long, who was then a student of the Hanoi University of Technology, competed with his friends to create a small-capacity DOS-run software piece which allows to type Vietnamese.
Long, who created a software piece with the small capacity of 2 KB (an MP3 music file has the average capacity of 3,500 KB), then thought of the idea of developing the software into a popular tool for the Vietnamese.
In the mid-1990s, when Long was following the postgraduate study program in Czech, Windows began becoming more popular in the world. He then created a software piece allowing to type Vietnamese on Windows, called “Little VnKey”. However, this was just for personal use and the gifts to friends.
However, Long could not continue spending more time on the software until 2000, when Microsoft began equipping Windows with Unicode, a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world’s writing systems.
At that time, the Vietnamese IT community paid its big attention to the creation of the applications that support the data input in Vietnamese on Windows.
Vietkey, the software most suitable to computer users at that moment, was not a free product. The Vietnamese then tried to use unlocked version for free.
It then took Long three days to complete his first Unicode supporting program and launched it onto the forums.
His work immediately received the feedbacks from the community, including the sarcastic remarks. He replied to all the emails and promised to fix the problem.
He vowed to successfully create Unikey not because he wanted to provide a free utility to Vietnamese, but also because he, as a technology engineer, needed to make a simple, reliable and friendly product.
The launching of Unikey was a “phenomenon” in the technology community. It has become more and more popular to the Vietnamese computer users.
When Unikey turned indispensable to all the computers in Vietnam, Long decided to make a “crazy” thing, which was criticized as the behavior aiming to kill commercial software: he made public Unikey’s open source.
Nevertheless, the decision by Long was then applauded by a lot of students and researchers, who were eager of approaching the software technology, which was then at the very early stage of development.
As such, Long not only has provided a good software product which supports the data input in Vietnamese, but has also helped change the Vietnamese thoughts and gathered the community’s strength for the development.
Despite the old age, Unikey remains effective, simple, friendly and easy to use. It is the software piece installed on nearly all the computers in Vietnam.
Vietnamese now expect Long to make the second exploit in his life with Laban Key, the product for mobile devices. Making debut in late 2013, Laban Key has been listed among the apps with the highest downloads on Google Play Store.
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