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Manuel Lima (M)
London, UK
Immortal since Dec 12, 2007
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    Decoding code
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    Decoding code
    Looking at an old Arabic script in The British Museum Islamic World gallery, I found myself mesmerized by the digital qualities of Square Kufic. Immediately it made me think of 2D barcodes for its striking resemblance. The interesting aspect of both forms, Square Kufic and 2D barcode, is that they look equally foreign and undecipherable to me. And without a knowledgeable interpreter, or a digital scanner, I could hardly make sense of its underlying message. The following image represents this comparison between ancient and modern code, left and right separated by more than a millennium.

    [Figure 1] - Square Kufic (by Maya Zankoul)

    Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabatean script. Its name is derived from the city of Kufa (in modern-day Iraq), although it was known in Mesopotamia at least 100 years before the foundation of Kufa. At the time of the emergence of Islam, this type of script was already in use in various parts of the Arabian Peninsula. It was in this script that the first copies of the Qur'an were written. Archaic Kufic script became dominant by the 8th century with the rapid spread of the Quran. However it lacked diacritical signs and was eventually replaced by Naskhi, an essentially cursive script.

    Square Kufic, from its origin from Archaic Kufic, retained the lack of a vowel system, but has been used to this day mainly in architectural settings. Square Kufic is also known as geometric, rectangular, rectilinear or geometric Kufic. When used to create geometric patterns with glazed tiles or mosaic, it can sometimes be referred to with a Farsi word hazarbaf.

    [Figure 2] - Data matrix code

    A data matrix code, also known as a 2D barcode or simply a 2D code, is a two-dimensional way of representing information. It is similar to a linear (1-dimensional) barcode, but has more data representation capability. It consists of black and white square modules (or cells), which represent bits, arranged in either a square or rectangular pattern. Depending on the situation a white module is a 0 and a black module is a 1, or vice versa. The information to be encoded can be text or raw data and its usual data size is from a few bytes up to 2 kilobytes. The length of the encoded data also depends on the symbol dimensions used.

    Data Matrix codes are becoming common on printed media such as labels and letters. The code can be read quickly by a scanner which allows the media to be tracked, for example when a parcel has been dispatched to the recipient. One of its uses is encoding URLs for applications using cellular phones with cameras. This capability is at the core of Semacode. And yet, another derivation of this capability is explored by Semapedia, a project which uses QR Code nodes to connect Wikipedia articles with their relevant place in physical space.

    However, this is certainly one of the most interesting applications of a 2D barcode:

    Mon, Jan 14, 2008  Permanent link

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    wilfriedhoujebek     Mon, Jan 14, 2008  Permanent link
    Excellent! What a great mix of total abstraction and language. A quick search reveals this image which looks like something taken from an esoteric version of PacMan. As always the form is informed by the medium: stone mosaics are built from what we we now would reconize as 'pixels'.

    mslima     Mon, Jan 14, 2008  Permanent link
    You're absolutely right, I immediately thought about PacMan and many of its ramifications. Here are two versions of the game:

    Diagram of PacMan Plus

    Screenshot of 3D Pacman Game 1.5
         Mon, Jan 14, 2008  Permanent link
    Hahaha, sweet. I love arabic script. Thanks for posting this comparasion :)