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About the Acharya Web Site

  The Acharya Web Site disseminates information relating to computing with Indian languages. The information presented at this site reflects the experiences gained at the Systems Development Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Madras. These experiences relate to the project undertaken at the laboratory where Software tools for developing interactive computer applications in different regional languages of India have been set up.

IIT Madras

  Indian Institute of Technology Madras was setup in 1959 by the Government of India and is one of the five institutes started during the fifties and early sixties. The five IITs: Kharagpur, Bombay, Madras, Kanpur and Delhi together with the recently added two(Guwahati and Roorkee), are reckoned as Institutions of national importance. The institutes together admit about 3200 students each year to different undergraduate programs in Engineering based on a common all India entrance test taken by close to two hundred thousand aspirants.

Systems Development Laboratory

   The Systems development Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering was setup in 1976 to help students gain skills in building systems which use the computer as the base. The early years of Hardware Development had given the lab its identity as a unique lab setup, managed and run exclusively by the students of the department under the guidance of Professor Kalyana Krishnan. During the past 15 years, emphasis has shifted to systems development supporting multilingual computer applications for education and literacy.

IITM Software and Multilingual Application Development

  The project carried out at SDL relates to computing with Indian languages. Application development is based on a set of software tools created to work with text in different Indian languages and scripts.

  The software base for application development is distinguished by features which provide uniformity in the use of the applications across all the languages/scripts of India. The applications work transparently across languages on account of the unique coding scheme used for representing text in terms of syllables. This has been achieved through the use of syllable level codes of fixed size which are ideally suited for linguistic processing.

  The applications developed as part of the Multilingual systems project have been distributed free on the internet. Also, this web site presents an example of online Interactive lessons to help people learn Indian languages. The Acharya site is best known for its free online interactive lessons to learn Sanskrit.

  Technical aspects of computing with Indian languages have also been covered in the pages presented at the site. In essence the site serves as a source of reference on several aspects of computing which are relevant in the context of Information technology relating to education and literacy in India.

Multilingual Applications

  The following category of applications have been developed and distributed through this site.
  • Multilingual document preparation.
  • Linguistic text processing
  • Speech enhanced applications (Text to Speech)
  • Bharati Braille
  • Data Base applications including search engines
  • Information Technology aids for the Disabled

Projects to help the disabled

  The Acharya Site has also gained substantial visibility on account of the applications developed to help disabled persons in India gain skills in using the computer. The speech enhanced applications have won appreciation from the Visually Handicapped groups. NGOs in different parts of the country have endorsed the use of the IITM Software and Tools for imparting training to Visually Challenged children and adults. Two national level projects have already been started where the benefits of Information Technology in Indian languages directly help disabled as well as underprivileged children cope with the challenges of education.

The Acharya site presents details of these two projects.

1. NIB - The National Initiative for the Blind (Linked to the Vidya Vrikshah site).
2. VIKAS - Village Information Knowledge And Skills (Linked to the Vidya Vrikshah site).

Association with Volunteer Organizations.

  Volunteer organizations in the country have willingly come forward to promote the use of the Multilingual Software. The volunteers of Vidya Vrikshah, an NGO based in Chennai, work closely with the lab and have helped train hundreds of persons in the use of the multilingual editor and related applications. The two national level projects mentioned above were initiated by Vidya Vrikshah and have attracted the attention of groups involved with the planning and implementation of "Sarva Siksha Abhyan" run by the Government of India.

  Over the years, the lab has interacted with several volunteer groups in the country. Many of these groups have actively promoted the use of the software and have themselves prepared very useful web pages.

SDL over the years.

  The pages relating to the history of development of the project offer more details. A set of photographs bring back memories for those who had worked in the lab from its inception.

About the name "IITM Software".

  Software applications are generally identified by their specific names. We have however refrained from giving any specific name to the set of software applications developed in the lab, for we feel that the use of the software is more important than the name it carries. It may also be kept in mind that more than sixty students who contributed to the development shared this view. The name "IITM Software" was chosen as a generic name for the set of development tools and applications created in the lab. Since the approach to representing text is unique, some of our friends have suggested the name "Acharya System", which name may eventually apply if the software gains enough visibility and finds wider use in the country.


About the Acharya Logos on different pages.

  The Acharya Web Site now displays many different images as logos in different pages. These logos represent concepts about this universe from the oldest of the Hindu scriptures, where any item of information about the world we live in, can be traced to one of five basic elements. In some specific cases, the images relate to the UNESCO Heritage Sites in India. A separate page has been devoted to explaining the meaning of the logos.

The software developed at IIT Madras has been made available on the Web from about 1995. These applications generally go by the name "IITM Software".

1994-1996
Distribution via FTP effected at two sites in the US.

Duke University (taylor.mc.duke.edu/~krishnan)

North Dakota State Univ. ftp://ftp.cs.nodak.edu

1997
Web Site setup at IIT Madras on a  486 machine and subsequently upgraded to a PII system.
(sdlcfsn.cs.iitm.ernet.in)
 
2001
Web Server at IITM renamed as acharya.iitm.ac.in

Hardware upgraded to a dual CPU PIII system.


The Acharya site is known to be slow in terms of response time. The server response is constrained by somewhat restricted network bandwidth on the link to the internet.
 

During the past years (2004-6), the acharya site has retained the top position on a Google search for "learn sanskrit"

 

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Last updated on Nov.  21, 2005    Best viewed at 800x600 or better