左手電腦,右手文化——「電腦怪傑」朱邦復

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1992 / 3月

文‧魏宏晉 圖‧卜華志


電腦的功能與日俱增,威力愈來愈強大,然而在帶給現代人更便利的生活外,它還能給我們什麼?

 

倉頡中文輸入法的發明人朱邦復提出的答案是——發揚中華文化。


近來,「電腦怪傑」朱邦復又有「驚人之舉」。

當全球電腦界菁英因無法突破電腦「理解」人類思考模式問題,十年前便放棄電腦「人工智慧」有關思考模式的研究,對中文電腦有著無限熱情的朱邦復,此時卻宣稱,他個人設計「可以思考,有學習能力,並能直接和人類用自然語言溝通」的「中文智能電腦」,已經初步開發成功,預計兩年內將可正式推出。

「到時候人手一機,它可以陪老人說話解悶,教小孩讀書,為人們生活作最合理的安排」,朱邦復描繪著他的「中文智能電腦」美麗前景,「到時候,世界上那媮晹釧瓵蛂y民主』、『共產』之爭呢!」老朱愈想愈美妙。

「倉頡」一舉天下知

學農出身的朱邦復,十多年前以一套「倉頡中文輸入法」在電腦界打響名號後,就將全付精力投入中文電腦的研究,這些年所開發出可容納六萬多個中文字,並可以利用程式再創造六百萬字,字型大小變化無窮,但只佔用電腦儲存空間廿五萬六千字元的「全漢字字庫」,以及整合現在繪圖、表格處理、電腦排版、文書處理、視窗、通訊、資料庫等七大獨立套裝軟體於一體的「聚珍系統軟體」,其技術獨步國內外,無人能及。

正由於朱邦復在中文電腦技術開發上的成就不凡,因此,當他自稱「中文智能電腦」研發成功,有人半信半疑;也有人認為不太可能,曾和朱邦複合作推出「天龍中文電腦」的宏痐膝q董事長施振榮就是前者的代表,他認為以朱邦復的聰明才智,這是頗有可能的事;但是資訊與電腦雜誌總編輯李明峰則直截了當的表示,「就算朱邦復真的能做出什麼,也未必能夠實用。」

然而和以往一樣,所有的毀譽對老朱而言,一點意義都沒有。

「他們說他們的,我做我的事。」朱邦復一派瀟灑地說。

其實,今年已經五十六歲的朱邦復,並非首次攪亂電腦界的一池春水。

「中文電腦」一統天下?

十多年前朱邦復憑著一股熱情,全心投入中文資訊化的研究,在當時一片西化的潮流下,他走的很辛苦,他在發明「倉頡輸入法」之後,又與宏痐膝q合作,推出第一部由中國人自行設計完成的「天龍中文電腦」,打破中文無法資訊化的神話。

然而,因而得到「中文電腦之父」美譽的朱邦復,並不以只能執行文書處理的「倉頡」、「天龍」為滿足,他立志要將「中文」和「電腦」結合;他堅信,「全世界各種語言中,只有中文的結構最能夠為電腦所理解,因此中文電腦必然是未來資訊社會的主流,全世界都無法阻擋這個趨勢。」朱邦復誇出了好大的「狂言」!

對於一個「電腦工作者」(朱邦復如此自稱)而言,選擇結構複雜的中文,來做為電腦的處理對象,朱邦復的想法是「中華文化是世界上最優良的文化,它的精髓都在中國文字堙v,朱邦復說。

儘管中文輸入仍未便利如英文、日文等拼音文字,而使中文資訊的普及化仍遠遠落後歐美先進國家,但朱邦復對中國文字的信心仍篤定不移。他認為,西方拼音文字是一種沒有「概念」的文字,每一件物事,都要用一個字來表達,因此文字隨時代演進數目愈來愈多,形成爆炸。

力挽中華文化狂瀾

「中國文字就不同了,譬如一個『車』字,上面加上別的字,像『火車』、『卡車』、『汽車』……就成了各種不同的『車』;下面加上字,像『車把』、『車身』……就表示車的各部分結構,這些詞句,人們一看就知道和『車』有關」,朱邦復解釋他自己對中文文字的理解方式,「而英文卡車是『Truck』、汽車是『Car』……,一種車一個字,沒有概念結構可言。」

朱邦復認為,由於中文具備可被電腦理解接受的優越性,因此未來全世界的人工智慧電腦,將不可避免的要以中文思考、創造,所以「中華文化必然會被發揚傳播,成為世界文化的主流」,他信心滿滿地說。

朱邦復選擇中文電腦做為自己終身奮鬥的目標,是由許多「偶然」所堆砌出的「必然」結果!

朱邦復出身權貴之家,父親朱懷冰在大陸做過湖北省省主席,政府來台後,曾擔任光復大陸設計委員會秘書長。

在優渥的環境下成長,朱邦復原本有機會平平坦坦地過一生,但由於天生性格叛逆,與父親水火不容,導致他遠走異鄉,並且到卅多歲還一事無成。

飄泊半生,大徹大悟

「我每天都在想『人生到底是什麼?』」朱邦復回憶那段飄浪的日子。

就在思考中,他嘗試過各種生活形態,走私、嬉皮都曾在生命歷程中記下一頁。就在巴西當嬉皮的那段日子,由於一次感情的挫敗,朱邦復大徹大悟,了解到「人生的真諦」;並由於與嬉皮群一起探索中華文化,他深深為自己的母文化折服,也為其未能被發揚而叫屈,於是他決定自己的終生職志——發揚中華文化。

當時的他,還沒有一個具體行動的概念,直到日後到一家巴西出版社工作,親身體會西方拼音文字處理的快捷,朱邦復才找到方向,立志將中國文字予以資訊化,使之可以快速地傳播知識。

民國六十二年,朱邦復卅六歲那年,他束裝返國,開始全心投入中文資訊化的研究。

苦心推出倉頡碼

對於中文輸入法的研究,朱邦復採取了最原始,也是最笨的方法來分析複雜的中國字。他買了幾十本中文字典,將字典上一個字一個字剪下來,把所有的字編卡,然後再予以拆解、分析、組合。經過六年的研究,他利用英文打字機標準鍵盤做為輸入的基本鍵盤,分析出廿四個中文字母——日、月、金、木、水、火、土、竹、戈、十、大、中、一、弓、人、心、手、口、尸、廿、山、女、田、卜等。再加上七十二個輔助字形的使用,成功地創造出「形意檢字法」,後來經當時的三軍大學校長蔣緯國改名為「倉頡中文輸入法」,以其「一字一碼」、「取碼精確」的特性,只要熟練取碼規則,一般人一分鐘約可輸入六十個字,還有比賽優勝者創下一分鐘一百卅個字的紀錄,比諸注音輸入法一分鐘大約只能輸入四、五十個字,「倉頡」已成為目前電腦專業人士的最愛,專業電腦使用者李淑慧說:「中文同音字太多,用注音輸入法每輸一個字就要停下來在螢幕上選字,非常麻煩;而『倉頡』只要取碼正確,通常可以立刻出現所要的字,令人信心十足!」

為使取碼更精簡,「倉頡碼」經朱邦復不斷改良,現在已經進入第五代了。

朱邦復因「倉頡」而「成名」,但卻沒有因此「得利」,因為他根本就反對商業主義大賺其錢的作法和觀念,他的發明從不申請專利,完全開放給大家使用,因此儘管「身懷絕技」,朱邦復至今仍「沒有車子、房子、存款,負債一大堆。」他的口頭禪是:「人只要能生活就行了,賺那麼多錢要帶進棺材嗎?」

要電腦說話!

朱邦復對於一般人不重視文化,卻侈談資訊的做法非常不以為然,他更對有人只把電腦來處理「六合彩」簽單而感到痛心,「拿電腦來賺錢、算帳,根本是本末倒置」,他氣憤地說。

朱邦復現在研究中的「中文智能電腦」,就是在財源短絀的情況下,舉債進行的。

由於「認定」電腦應該和電影「外太空二○○一年」中有個紅眼睛的電腦「HAL」一樣,可以和人類說話、溝通、思考、理解、學習,朱邦復堅持了十幾年,希望做出那樣的「中文智能電腦」。

在這項研究上,他延續了以往對中國文字拆解的工作,進一步對常用約八千個中國字分析意義、分類組合,並建立詞庫,使電腦能夠接受,並了解中文的應用、思考方式。

中文詞句的分析是個浩大費時的工作,而憑著熱情與毅力,朱邦復這個「笨工作」已近完成的時機,接下來就是將分析的結果應用在電腦上。「只要到這個步驟,『智能電腦』就完成八成了,未來搭配上適當的應用軟體,它將可『為所欲為』」,朱邦復說。

據他透露,「美國、日本的大電腦公司如IBM和NEC,都對其『中文智能電腦』很有興趣,並且急於看到成果。」

錢財於我如浮雲

然而價值觀與社會標準相距太大,朱邦復無可避免地為合夥人帶來困擾。曾經和朱邦複合作推出「天龍一號中文電腦」的宏砦q腦公司董事長施振榮就說,「朱邦復是個很聰明的人,但是他經常一意孤行,行事不按市場運作規則,對他來說是很吃虧的事,對電腦界也許也是個損失。」

施振榮認為,朱邦復不愛錢是他自己的個性使然,但是做出一些不符市場需求的東西,或者是不求利潤回收的事,這都對研究工作的繼續有害。

浸淫中文電腦十四年,儘管大部分的人都對朱邦復的行徑不以為然,但是憑著他獨特的信念與工作狂熱卻也吸引了一批「朱氏門徒」。台大中文系畢業的沈紅蓮就是其中之一。

朱派傳人攜手同行

沈紅蓮原本受聘於曾協助朱邦復研究中文輸入法的大周建設,主要工作就是幫朱整理資料。原本她只是把這件事當成一份「工作」,但是後來卻深為朱的工作狂熱所折服,從此成為他的忠實門徒,這一晃都已經十四年了。

「老朱有滿腦子的理想,但是常常把事做一半就丟掉了,而我是一個徹底的反對派,負責激勵他把事情完成」,沈紅蓮經常用「激將法」刺激朱邦復做一些事。

美國加州柏克萊大學歷史系畢業,現年廿八歲的Wolter在遊歷各國尋找「人生意義」不果之餘,三年前在深圳遇到當時在大陸研究電腦的朱邦復,相談之下,也從此決定追隨朱邦復,共同編織電腦世界的夢想。

八、九年前畢業於華夏工專電子科,現在跟著朱邦復做「沒薪水」研究工作的封家麒更直截了當地說,「為名為利就不來這兒了。」

這位行事理念,甚至於研究方式完全迥異於常人——從事的是高科技研究,卻以「土法煉鋼」方式進行的「朱瘋子」,常被一般人視為「異端」。今天,朱邦復尚未到蓋棺論定的一刻,但是「他卻也成為學院派研究工作者的一個很好的反思教材」,台大電機系博士班研究生徐瑞卿說:「條條大路通羅馬」,朱邦復的「笨方法」其實也是方法。看待朱邦復,或許應如是。

〔圖片說明〕

P.42

(右):朱邦復(中坐者)整日與電腦和一群不計名利的年輕朋友,埋首研究。

P.42

(左上):「倉頡中文輸入法」,花了朱邦復六年的心血。

P.42

(左下):工作枯燥之餘,順手用鐵絲捏個小腳踏車調劑。

P44

朱邦復設計的「中文智能電腦」是從分析中國文字的字義開始下手。(鄭元慶攝)

P.45

沈紅蓮小姐(左)是朱邦復最得力的工作夥伴。(鄭元慶攝)

P.45

朱邦復是電腦王國堙A孤傲的君主。(鄭元慶攝)

P.46

除了研究電腦外,朱邦復也喜歡和年輕人溝通,上至天文,下至地理,都有自己一番見地。

P.47

案頭佛像是朱邦復心靈的寄託。(鄭元慶攝)

P.47

遙眺未來,中國文化的前程是朱邦復最關心的事。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

The Computer and Culture--Computer Whiz Chu Bong Foo

Wei Hung-chin /photos courtesy of Pu Hua-chih /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

Uses for the computer are growing more numerous by the day as it becomes an ever more powerful machine. Yet what, besides greater convenience, can the computer give us?

Chu Bong Foo, the creator of the Chinese character entry system Chengi, answers--it can enhance Chinese culture.


Once again computer whiz Chu Bong Foo has taken people by surprise.

Just ten years ago research into computer "artificial intelligence" was being abandoned as computer researchers around the world were stymied in getting computers to understand models of human thought. Now Chu, who holds boundless enthusiasm for Chinese-language computers, has declared that he has designed "an intelligent Chinese computer" that "can think, learn skills and communicate directly with people using language." The first stages of its development have already been completed successfully, and it is expected to be formally unveiled within two years.

"In time everyone will have one, and they'll be able to keep old folks company and relieve boredom, teach children how to read and make the most logical arrangements for people's lives," says Chu, describing the beautiful future ahead of his Understanding System. "At that time there won't be any of this conflict between so-called 'democracy' and 'communism,'" he says, growing more enraptured with its wonder at every moment of reflection.

The Worldwide Fame of Chengi: Establishing himself in the computer world with Chengi over ten years ago, Chu, who originally studied agriculture, has completely invested his energies in Chinese-language computer research. What he has come up with in these years can hold 60,000 Chinese characters and can make use of programs to create another 6 million characters. The numbers of transformations to the size and shape of the characters are enormous, but it only takes up 256,000 bytes of memory for a "comprehensive bank of Chinese characters." It combines into an integrated system with seven independent sets of software for graphics, tables, computer typesetting, word processing, windows, communications interface, and a data bank--technology unsurpassed anywhere.

Because his achievements are so remarkable in the Chinese computer field, when he announced the success of his research into a "Chinese intelligent computer," some were inclined to half believe him while others were downright incredulous. Stan Shih, president of the computer company Acer, who worked with Chu on the Chinese computer Dragon, is representative of the former group. Respecting Chu's intelligence, he thought that it was quite possible. But Li Ming-feng, editor-in-chief of Information and Computer Magazine, makes no bones in saying, "Even if Chu Bong Foo can really make something, it has yet to be of any practical use." As usual, such praise and criticism means nothing to Chu. "They say what they may, and I do what I do," says Chu suavely.

In fact, this is not the first time that Chu, who is 56 this year, has made waves in the computer world.

"Chinese Computers" Rule the World? With a burst of passion, Chu Bong Foo threw himself into researching the computerization of the Chinese written language while struggling against the era's westward-pulling tide. After inventing Chengi, he worked with Acer to develop Dragon, the first computer to have been completely designed by Chinese themselves, shattering the myth that it was impossible to computerize the Chinese language.

Although he had acquired the title of "father of the Chinese computer," he was not satisfied with merely the word processing of the Chengi and Dragon. He was determined to combine "the Chinese language" with "the computer." "Of all the world's languages, only the structure of Chinese can be completely understood by the computer," Chu boasts. "Hence, Chinese is the future of world computerization. No one can stop this trend."

Why would a computer worker (which is how Chu Bong Foo describes himself) pick structurally complex Chinese as the subject of his computer research? His thinking was "Chinese culture is the greatest culture in the world, and its essence is Chinese characters."

Even if entering Chinese is not as convenient as entering phonetic-based scripts like English and Japanese--which results in language being less broadly computerized here than in the advanced countries of Europe and America--Chu has unwavering faith in the Chinese written language. He believes that the phonetic-based scripts of the West lack a "conceptual" basis: everything has a unique word for it. With progress the number of words has exploded.

Turning the Tide for Chinese Culture: "Chinese characters are altogether different. Take, for example, the word for 'vehicle.' You can add various characters in front of it to distinguish different kind of vehicles, such as 'fire vehicle' (train) or gas vehicle (car) . . . . You can add various characters after it to show the various manifestations of its structure, such as 'vehicle handle' (handlebar) or vehicle body . . . . With these combinations, one knows something is vehicular as soon as one sees the character," says Chu, describing his understanding of Chinese characters. "In English, a truck is a truck and a car a car . . . . Each vehicle has its single word, and there's no conceptual structure to speak of."

Chu Bong Foo holds that Chinese holds a superiority in being accepted and understood by computers. Hence, Chinese is the way of the future for artificial intelligence in computers, and there will be no way to avoid using Chinese for thought and creation. "Chinese will by necessity be exalted and spread so that it becomes the mainstream of world culture," he says full of confidence.

Chu's selection of Chinese computers as his life work is a result of many "accidents" leading to the "inevitable" result.

Chu was born to a family of influence. His father Chu Huai-ping served as governor of Hupei Province on the mainland and as the secretary-general of the Planning Commission for the Recovery of Mainland China after the government came to Taiwan.

Growing up in such a privileged environment, Chu Bong Foo had a chance to lead a comfortable life of smooth advancement. But because he is rebellious by nature and was always at odds with his father, he went abroad and was without accomplishment well into his thirties.

After Drifting, an Epiphany: "I was asking myself everyday, 'what does life mean?'" recalls Chu Bong Foo of those days of drifting.

He tried every kind of lifestyle while constantly reflecting upon his experiences. He was for a time both a smuggler and a hippie. When he was living as a hippie in Brazil, he came to a profound and complete understanding of "the real meaning of life" because of a failure in his love life." Investigating Chinese culture with his hippie friends, he came to deeply admire the culture of his motherland, crying foul at the lack of attention it had been receiving. It was thus he decided upon his own life work -- enhancing Chinese culture.

At that time, he still lacked a conception of what concrete measures could be taken. It wasn't until he went to work for a publishing house in Brazil and saw for himself how quickly Roman script could be handled that he found his direction. He resolved to computerize Chinese characters so that knowledge could be more quickly conveyed.

In 1973, Chu Bong Foo was 36, and he returned home to throw himself wholeheartedly into research about the computerization of Chinese.

Struggling to Put Forward Chengi: In researching and entering Chinese into a computer, Chu selected the crudest of methods--and the dumbest of ones for analyzing the complexity of Chinese characters. He bought dozens of Chinese dictionaries, cut each word out, compiled them on cards, and then took the characters apart, analyzed them and regrouped them. After six years of research, he used a standard English keyboard to make his basic Chinese keyboard, which was divided into 24 components of Chinese characters. With an additional 72 supplementary character shapes, he had successfully created the "Chinese character shape and meaning entry system," whose name was changed to Chengi by Wego Chiang. Someone familiar with the system can type 60 words a minute. A contest winner set a system record of 130 words a minute. In comparison, 40 to 50 is about the average for a phonetic system, and Chengi has become the darling of computer professionals. Li Shu-huei, who makes a living using computers, says, "There are too many Chinese characters with the same pronunciation. Using a pronunciation based system, you have to wait for the screen to be cleared of character -- it's more trouble than it's worth. With Chengi, if you select the code properly, the character will appear instantaneously. It really gives you confidence." In order to simplify the selection of character components, Chu is incessantly revising it, and it is already in its fifth version.

While Chu Bong Foo has become famous as a result of Chengi, he has not become rich. Because he is inherently against commercialism and going after the big bucks, he has never applied for a patent on his invention and has completely allowed it to be openly used by everyone. Hence, in spite of his great talent, Chu is still "without a car, house or savings and deeply in debt." He is fond of saying, "Getting by is good enough" or "Do you want to make a lot of money so you can put it in your coffin?"

Wanting a Computer to Speak! While he feels it's unfortunate that most people approach computerization without emphasizing culture, he is deeply pained that some people use the computer for organizing lottery stubs. "Using the computer to make money or to calculate bills is completely misusing it," he says angrily.

Chu is carrying out his research on the Understanding System with little funding and a lot of debt.

Because he decided that computers ought to be like the red-eyed HAL of the movie 2001, which can talk to humans, communicate, think, understand and learn, Chu has been working for over ten years in the hope of inventing a similarly intelligent Chinese computer.

In this research, he has extended his efforts to break down Chinese characters. He has made advancements in analyzing the meaning of 8,000 frequently used Chinese characters and in the sorting out and grouping of their types. Moreover, he has established a phrase bank to enable the computer to accept and understand the way Chinese is used and thought.

Analysis of Chinese phrases is enormously time-consuming. Yet with his passion and perseverance, Chu is already nearing completion of his "stupid work." What remains is figuring out computer applications for the results of this research. "Eighty percent of the work for his Understanding System is completed when approaching this stage. What remains is to match it with appropriate software, and then the computer can do whatever it wants."

"Major American and Japanese computer companies like IBM and NEC are all very interested in the Understanding System and are anxiously awaiting the results," Chu reveals.

No Interest in Money: With values so far from the norm, Chu Bong Foo is bound to cause headaches for his partners. Stan Shih, the chairman of Acer who once worked with Chu developing Dragon 1.0, says, "Chu Bong Foo is an extremely intelligent person, but he often does things against the advice of others and the principles of the marketplace. In so doing, he hurts himself and maybe also the computer industry."

Shih holds that Chu's antipathy for money is simply a character trait, but by making things that do not meet market demands or do not bring return on investment, he makes it difficult for research to continue.

Although most people look askance on his 14 years of effort to develop a Chinese computer, the belief and passion with which Chu throws himself into his work has attracted a group of "Chu disciples." Shen Hung-lien, a graduate of National Taiwan University in Chinese literature, is one such devotee.

Master and Disciples: Shen originally worked for the Tachou Construction Co., which once assisted Chu in researching the Chinese entry method. Her main work was helping Chu handle data. At first she regarded her duties as just a "job," but after being deeply moved by Chu's infectious enthusiasm for his work, she became a faithful follower and has been working with him for 14 years already.

"Chu is full of ideals, but he often does things half way. I act as an opposition faction to encourage him to finish what he starts." She often plays devil's advocate to prod Chu to action.

Three years ago, after having travelled through many countries in search of the meaning of life, Wolter Van Paten, with a degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley, now 28, met Chu, who was researching computers in Shenzhen on the mainland. After they talked, he too decided to follow Chu and together weave a computer dream.

Feng Chia-chi, who graduated several years ago from the electronics department of Hua Hsia Junior College of Technology, takes no salary for his research with Chu. "If I wanted to make a name or money," he says frankly, "I wouldn't be here."

"Mad Chu," the oddball of high tech whose research methods are completely unconventional, is often considered a heretic. History has yet to make an objective assessment of his accomplishments, but at the very least "he has become an excellent alternative teaching resource," says Hsu Jui-ching, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering at National Taiwan University. If every road leads to Rome, Chu Bong Foo's "dumb way" is still a way. Maybe we should look at him in this way.

[Picture Caption]

(Right): Chu Bong Foo (seated in the middle) spends his days with his head buried in computer research, working with a group of young friends who care for neither fortune nor fame.

(Above left): Chu Bong Foo toiled for six years to develop Chengi.

(Below left): Taking a breather from the dry rigors of work, he has fashioned a miniature bicycle out of wire.

In designing Understanding System, Chu Bong Foo began by analyzing the meaning of Chinese characters. (photo by Arthur Cheng)

Shen Hung-lien (left) is Chu Bong Foo's right-hand woman. (photo by Arthur Cheng)

Chu Bong Foo is the lonely and proud monarch of the computer kingdom. (photo by Arthur Cheng)

In addition to researching computers, Chu Bong Foo also enjoys his discussions with the young. He has views about everything.

The Buddha on the desk is a repository for Chu's spiritual energy. (photo by Arthur Cheng)

Chu Bong Foo is concerned about the future of Chinese culture.

 

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