The headlines are a bit stylized and difficult to read as I'm not familiar with the font. Getting accustomed to a font is either more difficult in Arabic, or there are greater extremes in fonts -- I've never figured out which. Certainly I have to learn a new style of writing every time I read a hand written letter.
Most of the text on cnn's site is easier to read but feels mechanical compared to the harir font which feels like a significant improvement.
Harir is very easy to read, with few peculiarities. I don't claim to know fonts or which is better/worse, but I would say Harir is very good, at least for my sample size of one. You would have to ask a native speaker who might be more comfortable with script than type their opinion.
I have better examples that you might find interesting:
- http://www.madamasr.com $$ Give it some time for the webfont to load $$
Marshall McLuhan's book The Gutenberg Galaxy is a longer approach to specific conversation around how latin characters led to the printing press which transformed society into the industrial age:
One other point I'd make is that I think people may be accidentally overestimating the friendliness of English for printing, to some degree, because sometimes it sounds like that people think that Japanese, Arabic, or whathaveyou people are just completely unwilling to make any practical concessions to the fact that technology might have some problems reproducing their language. But it's not as if English was not itself compromised by technology.
How much of this discussion sounds like "No English-speaking country would use a typewriter because English is written with a different amount of space allocated to each letter, which typewriters of the era could not reproduce."? English speakers adapted to the tech. Telegrams historically looked like crap... they couldn't even have punctuation!... but they were popular even so.
Granted, English may have a particularly easy time of it (it is, admittedly, quite nice to fit a quite usable subset of your language into five bits), but I'd like to see some more concrete evidence that all these other cultures were unwilling to bend for a while, because they were so much more concerned about... whatever it is they were concerned about.
(Also, to be clear, I'm speaking about day-to-day usage. Being particular about the Koran is one thing, being unwilling to bend in an text message on your 1998 phone is quite another.)
I don't think so to be frank. When compared to Japanese or Arabic, once could say English was created solely for printing. I'm a native Arabic speaker, so I can appreciate why people would claim it's a difficult language to print. Word processors and some browsers, to this very day, sometimes have trouble rendering Arabic properly, especially when it comes to linking characters and Arabic punctuation.
> Telegrams historically looked like crap... they couldn't even have punctuation!.
English punctuation does not significantly alter meaning in my opinion. You have sentence-ending punctuation, which is used to differentiate mainly between a statement and a question. Then you have separator punctuation, like commas, semi-colons, and colons. I don't see them making much of a change either. And finally, the apostrophe and quotation mark. In addition, telegrams are short messages, so there usually is no need to convey complex meanings. Therefore, it would have been a slight inconvenience for telegram users at most.
In Arabic, changing a punctuation mark above a single letter in a word can change the word's meaning entirely. Furthermore, letters are linked together to form words - this is not essential, but would make things much more difficult to read. Also, the position of a letter in a word dictates its "shape". This introduces a ton of variation to the letters of the language, making it difficult for even modern keyboards to get right. I'd imagine it would have been even more complex at the beginning.
Of course, I think that the main barrier to widespread adoption of the printing press in the Arab World was more related to demand than anything else. At the time of the Industrial Revolution and slightly before it, the Arab countries' least concern was printing books, as they were too busy dealing with the imperialist occupation.
That whole section applies equally well to many written forms of English. I'm not an expert but I think modern Latin "print" forms (i.e., the only forms an increasing number of Anglophones can read or write, aside from very similar modern italic) are as much a product of the limitations of the printing press as anything. Look at the archaic forms of the letter /s/ for a start.
Let's eat, Grandma!
Let's eat Grandma!
Commas save lives.
It's an idea that comes up in online discussions from time to time but is generally not taken seriously by academics because it completely ignores the fact that most non-Latin languages do in fact lend themselves quite well to being written as the composition of smaller elements used in a printing press.
It's the same sort of argument made about keyboards to explain "why China, Japan, and India haven't produced as many prolific computer scientists", completely avoiding the fact that keyboards for Chinese, Japanese, Devanagri, etc. have existed for over a hundred years.
Hindi, Chinese and Japanese, by contrast, may have many characters, but each character is a distinct element.
That's not... really true about Devanagri and related scripts like Bengali, Marathi, etc. At least, no different than the Arabic scripts as you describe it. They have the same considerations with multiple forms per letter (as many as five per-letter, not counting variations in size and joining or conjunct forms), along with the issues regarding character joining affecting meaning in critical ways. Nevertheless, these problems have pretty straightforward solutions when it comes to typesetting.
It's also worth noting that English had many of these same problems as well at the time of the printing press, which is why handwritten English before the 15th century looks so different from what we read today. We literally dropped letters from the English alphabet due (in part) to this problem.
It's frustrating to see this argument persist because it has next to no evidentiary support by accepted literature, and it comes dangerously close to psuedoscientific post-hoc rationalizations of European political dominance. (e.g., phrenology being used to "explain" why Europeans were able to make scientific advances during the Enlightenment whereas African and Asian societies allegedly "weren't").
 For example, the printing press is a major reason that we no longer use the thorn in written English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorn_(letter)#Middle_and_Earl...
 which is wonderfully ironic given where numerals in European languages come from (spoiler: originally India, by way of Arabia), but I digress.
Going by your link, there was no technological difficulty at all with printing thorns. Rather, what happened was that England imported type rather than manufacturing it, and foreign type didn't include English-specific letters.
> the substitution of Y for thorn soon became ubiquitous, leading to the common 'ye', as in 'Ye Olde Curiositie Shoppe'. One major reason for this was that Y existed in the printer's type fonts that were imported from Germany or Italy, while thorn did not.
عالِم (pronounced a'alim): scientist
عالَم (pronounced a'alam): world
Notice the difference is essentially the "i" and "a" yet the entire meaning changes.
I'd imagine this would add complexity to the mechanisms employed by printing equipment back then.
This is a pretty myopic view of what's significant in writing. Why are you calling the consonant a "letter" and the vowel an "accent"? Would you apply the same rigorous distinction to é, which is a full letter (specifically Latin Small Letter E with Acute, U+00E9), vs é, which is a letter e with a combining accent above?
The case that accents change meaning is also existing even in many european languages.
So, it’s not like latin-1 doesn’t deal with those issues either.
I’d assume it’s more other issues that are problematic with Arabic script.
China had printing, and movable type, before Europe, but not printing presses. And movable type was difficult with Chinese characters.
Your link contains no support for this rather odd idea. Wikipedia explicitly contradicts it:
> A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink.
> Movable-type presses using cast ceramics were employed in China from the early years of the last millennium.
What exactly does "printing press" mean to you? What distinction are you trying to draw?
I use Meiryo for Chinese/Japanese scripts and everything is simple, geometric shapes with more or less constant thickness for lines . There are 100+ radicals (the name given to often used "parts" of Chinese characters) and so there is a lot more variation than the 26 (52 including capitals) that Latin alphabets use.
Korean hangul doesn't have this issue, because hangul is a wonderful, wonderful writing systems.
If I had to guess, I'd say the reason is something to do with the Renaissance and a couple of centuries of fashion in typeface design pushing the limits of the mechanised process, instead of just trying to reproduce the shapes that people were used to (there's a reason sans-serif typefaces were originally called 'grotesk'!).
For example, first place I checked: http://yahoo.co.jp doesn't have any subtle brush-strokes. Everthing chracter is constant thickness. The characters are intricate, but I don't know what the information density is (pixels per word); I think they have fewer charaters per idea in Japanese, and more essential pixels per character.
Interestingly, that appears to not be the case for Japanese, quite the opposite in fact. There was a research a while ago about the speed of spoken language that I think can loosely be applied here (number of characters per syllable depends on which Japanese alphabet is being used). The research concluded that Japanese is very low density (and thus spoken very fast).
The Japanese syllabary characters tend to be quite modestly formed; they have few essential pixels per character. The kanji, which carry large quantities of semantic information, require much more space to be legible.
If you want a real challenge in il8n, try ensuring that all the ligatures are correct in generated PDFs.
Most elementary students would notice and dislike kerning like this https://static.flickr.com/55/134612871_dd482da6a2_o.gif .