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Friday, December 14, 2007

That's ISO not I-S-O

The next time you're talking about the standardization and the
International Organization for Standardization comes up, be sure to
pronounce it as [English /eye-so/] "Iso" and not "I-S-O." We say this
because ISO does not, in fact, stand for the International Organization
for Standardization (or the International Standardization Organization,
which doesn't even exist). We heard this neat tidbit the XML 2007
conference, held in Boston last week. Ken Holman, who this week steps
down from the role as the international secretary of the ISO subcommittee
responsible for the Standard Generalized Markup Language(SGML), gave a
briefing on ISO and related matters during the conference's lightening
round sessions Tuesday night. He noted that the ISO name actually comes
from "iso," the greek prefix for equal. For instance, Isometric refers
to the equality of measurement... Holman dropped another tidbit during
his talk as well. We may see a new ISO/IEC working group devoted to
office document formats, such as Office Document Format and the Microsoft
Office Open XML standard. First some hierarchy needs to be explained.
ISO works on a wide variety of standards, from everything from medical
equipment to film (ISO 400, ISO 200, etc.). In many information
technology standards designations, a lot of times we'll see ISO in
conjunction with IEC. For instance, ISO/IEC 13818 is the
internationally-approved designation for MPEG-2. The two bodies often
work together on IT standards. The International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC) was founded a little over 100 years ago (by none other
than Lord Kelvin, among others!) to standardize the then-emerging field
of electrical componentry. Both IEC and ISO were doing work in IT, so
in order to eliminate duplication, they founded a joint body, called
the Joint Technical Committee (JTC 0001), the only working group
between the two organizations. JTC has a number of subcommittees,
handling standards from everything from biometrics to user interface
conventions. SC34 is the committee that begat SGML, which in turn
begat XML... SC34 itself has a number of different working groups.
WG 1 handles the data types and character types for XML documents.
WG 2 handles the presentation of documents, including the font
management and the like. WG 3 took the World Wide Web Consortium's
Hypertext Markup Language specification and made it an international

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