I work for a company that has begun integrating embedded computer systems into our products that we manufacture. We have a pretty wide range of products and they are distributed across the globe. Additionally, we've designed a few integrated boards that can serve multiple purposes depending on the firmware that has been flashed to the system. This way we don't have to redesign our computer hardware for our various products-- all we have to do is re-write the firmware layer to meet the specific product's needs.
Because of these hardware limitations, changing our hardware takes an act of congress but writing new software is much simpler.
One of our products has a new requirement that we haven't had to previously implement, which is the need for user-inputted text.
Currently, we've been able to store international text in resources and only the necessary font characters are compiled to bit-mapped images. This means that we've been able to store highly-ideographic languages like Chinese and Japanese text in a minimal amount of space because we only use a very small percentage of the entire language set.
Since this new product will require that our users input text, we will have to implement an extensive character set. As primarily a PC developer, I'm quite familiar with ASCII, Unicode, UTF-8, etc., however, implementing a full character set of any of these languages isn't feasible because we have a limited amount of FRAM on the board to store the font data.
My management is hoping that there is a minimal character set that can be used for highly ideographic languages. I believe there is a phonetic alphabet for Japanese (the Hiragana?) Are there similar phonetic alphabets for the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. languages as well and, if so, could speakers of these languages communicate with such a narrow character set? I'm pretty sure the answer to that question is "absolutely, no" but it's a question worth asking.
Management has set a "soft" requirement that we can only have a limited character set of about 8,000 characters covering all major languages in common use. If this is not possible, we need to look for some form of alternative method for meeting our needs based off of our limited hardware resources.
I'm sure this problem has had to have been solved before. Does anyone have experience working within such constraints while needing an extensive font and character encoding system? If so, what nuggets of wisdom can you offer?