Category Archives: Technology

Ge’ez for cellphones

The first cellphones for messages in Ge’ez script went on sale in 2007, just in time for the Ethiopian millennium celebrations. Previously people had to send each other messages in English or Italian or transcribe Amharic words into Roman script (the script used by most European languages).
The Ge’ez script works for languages such as Amharic and is the oldest African script still in widespread and current use for literature, news, notices, legal and all other uses. It is very widely used in Ethiopia, and also in other countries where there are Ethiopian communities.
Nokia developed the phones, according to the BBC. They had onscreen instructions in Amharic, keypads showing both English and Ge’ez characters and it was even possible to set dates according to Ethiopia’s 13-month calendar, in terms of which the new millennium dawned on 11 September 2007.
The lessons at Learn Amharic in London will also give students insights into Ethiopian culture, calendar, time and manners as well as the latest developments.
Roman script has 26 characters but the various variations of Ge’ez characters, which combine vowels and consonants, have nearly 300. You need one or two keystrokes to create the combination. The system was built around a Unicode – UCS2 standard – font, so the messages should be able to be transmitted on any UCS2 compatible network and displayed on any UCS2 capable phone, normally those which can display Arabic or Hindi and other scripts.
The new millennium in 2007 also signaled the end of a two-year ban on SMS messaging in Ethiopia, with the service switched off since the 2005 political unrest.
By 2011, ABSHA/ECS in the USA produced a program to type and search using the Ge’ez font that works on Android cellphones. The same company had computerized Ethiopic languages with ModEth, a DOS wordprocessor for Ethiopia, released in 1987 so that each character could be achieved with one or two keystrokes.
Many computers in Ethiopia come supplied with typing software for Ge’ez fidels. We will offer Amharic lessons that will help our students who learn Amharic to read and write, although learning Amharic for typing is a step further than our syllabus.
This website KeyManWeb offers a chance for Amharic students to try their Amharic typing.