The Origins of Hawaiian Language Support in Mac OS and iOS: So You Want To Change The World?

Only a handful of my friends will recognize the gentleman standing in the back of this picture, Brian Frye. He is one of the unsung heroes of getting technology support for ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i to where it is today. I’ve told this story to some folks privately, but never shared it publicly before. Since he’s not at Apple anymore, it’s safe to do so.

Brian was an Apple support engineer for Hawai‘i in the mid-late 1990s. During his time here we became friends, and he tried to help me find the individuals who could assist us in getting support for the Hawaiian language into Mac OS, but with little luck. He returned to work at Apple’s at headquarters after that. One day he was walking through the hallways of Apple’s headquarters, passed a couple of people talking in the hallway, and overheard one say to the other, “what other languages don’t we support?” Turns out they were system engineers working on language support in OS X. He stopped, introduced himself and said “there is a guy in Hawai‘i you need to talk to.” Me. The connection was made, and 18 months or so of email exchanges, swapped files, and testing followed. On August 24, 2002, Mac OS 10.2 shipped, and in it were a Hawaiian keyboard, sorting routines and some translated strings (mostly date and time related).

The fact that iOS’s core software was largely based on OS X meant that a lot of support for Hawaiian that is baked into OS X transferred to iOS. Brian had left Apple by then, but the connections he helped forge remained, and we were able to get them to add the ability to type the ‘okina and kahakō, and eventually a Hawaiian keyboard in iOS. Other friends have helped along the way, but as they are still at Apple it is best if I don’t name names here. But none of it would have happened if not for that chance meeting in Cupertino. Mahalo nui, Brian. If any of you have ever typed an ‘okina or kahakō on any Apple device, you should mahalo him as well. And mahalo Beryl Morimoto for sharing the pic.

The official announcement of this development is still on the Kualono website. When we initially asked someone from Apple’s PR department for a quote, they didn’t think it was worth their time. When the story got syndicated and reprinted in over 100 newspapers around the country, we got their attention and got more support when further developments released, like Hawaiian support in iOS.

Pipi holo ka‘ao…

3 comments on “The Origins of Hawaiian Language Support in Mac OS and iOS: So You Want To Change The World?

Ka pai… I figured it would be something like that. Which is great for Hawaiian of course though this lottery approach is really infuriating for those who are left out in the cold. We’ve been trying to get some minimal support for Scottish Gaelic into OS X and iOS for years but with barely any success. Such linguistic fascism (by multinationals like Apple) really infuriates me.

Aloha Michael, so sorry to hear of your frustrations. I’ll contact you offline about this.

Liko Puha says:

Mahalo e Brian Frye. Mahalo e Kenelala Kamepiula! When meeting with regional Apple folks at our college (Santa Rosa Junior College), I always check to see if they know Brian, Kepano, or Jim. I see now that I need to update my story since both Brian and Kepano are no longer at Apple. Aloha nō!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top