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Less is More: From 9 to 6
Wang Code 6 Digits

19 December 2006

According to the figures given by China’s Ministry of Information Industry, by the end of the October 2006, China had 450 million mobile phone users, and by the end of October this year 350 billion text messages were sent. Inputting Chinese characters into a tiny handset, though painstaking, has grown into one of the chief methods of communication in daily life as well as in business situations.

One of the most commonly used methods of inputting Chinese is by hanyu pinyin, a code system that uses Latin alphabet to spell the sounds of the official Chinese language. Though better than other known pinyin input systems, still it has inherited flaws. The requirement of selecting a character from a menu of candidates with same sound makes the typing absurdly laborious and time consuming. And the process of input is actually more about coding than writing - the disconnection from the written form presents a real challenge to general population’s handwriting skills.

Salvation came in 2004 when a professor in China demonstrated how he had integrated the structure of written characters and Arabic numerals. It practically means it is 9, instead of 26, keys that are all needed when typing Chinese. It does take a bit more effort to learn, but once having mastered "Wang Code 9 Keys" or "Wang Code 9 Digits", as it is named, you would be able to write in Chinese on computer much faster than you would in English. In reality, an experienced user can input a maximum of 100 Chinese characters per minute.

Just at the time when you think the things couldn’t get any better, on Saturday, 16 December, the professor announced in Beijing’s Great Hall of People that he had successfully turned his "9 Digits" upside down. So now "6 Digits" rules.

The basic principle of the 6D is to have six digits corresponding to six key strokes of Chinese characters. The numbers from 1 to 6 represent a horizontal line (一), a vertical line (|), a left stroke (/), a right stroke (\), a turn (ㄥ) and a square (口) respectively. By coding the first four plus the last strokes of a character, the desired character will appear.

With this revolutionary method, anyone who knows how to write Chinese on paper needs only five minutes to learn how to write Chinese on computer.

The biggest draw of this wonder method is of enabling cell phone users to compose text messages at a speed as rapidly as spring rain falling on the ground, and that probably is why the inventor formally named the "6 Keys" or "6 Digits" 王码春雨 (Wang Code Spring Rain).

Previously it was believed by many that due to the unique nature of the Chinese written language, there was very little likelihood of a "standard" method evolving. And the Chinese government is going to prove it is wrong - A standard text messaging input method is said will be promulgated next year.

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