Dedication


Credits
General credits for the ISB go to the following people:

Anurag Acharya
Arati Deo
R. Gopalakrishnan
Shripad Lale
Ravi Rai
Satish Subramanian
Mani Upadhyaya
Vivek Vohra
And, as always, my deepest thanks and appreciation go to Avinash Chopde (avinash@acm.org), the main man behind ITRANS and the ISB, for making it all possible and for his continued help (financially, spiritually, as well as creatively).

Extract from Anurag's FAQ
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1.11. What is the history behind the ISB?
Avinash Chopde writes:
"In 1988, I suddenly developed an interest in Indian language scripts. I soon found why most vendors were peddling raw fonts out there - direct use of the font makes it very difficult to enter Indic script text. So I started the development of ITRANS, a freeware (I)ndian language (TRANS)literation tool, as a front-end for the TeX typesetting tool. ITRANS is table-driven which makes it easy support nearly every Indian Language Script.

When it came time to provide some sample documents with the ITRANS package, I decided to transliterate a few Hindi Film songs (the most popular Indian documents by far), and include it with the ITRANS package. Initially, there were 3 songs that were packaged with the ITRANS archive.

Even though I wrote ITRANS, my knowledge of Indian Languages is very poor. This meant that the songs contained many mistakes. The first songs were taken off the usenet newsgroup rec.music.indian.misc (RMIM), and I remember that Anurag Shankar, who now manages the Song Book, was around at that time, and even e-mailed me corrections to the sample songs provided.

As time went on, the activity on rec.music.indian.misc picked up, I realized that we had a opportunity to create a archive of Indian Language Documents, starting with Hindi Songs. This archive would use ITRANS, so would be readable in English on simple ASCII terminals, and because it used ITRANS, it would also be possible to get the song printed in the Hindi Script...seeing the lyrics of a song, or the words of a popular document in the native Indic Script is just something else! It is so much more comfortable reading Indic Script as opposed to reading it in English encoding...

So since ITRANS bridged these two worlds, English input and Hindi output, I started posting notices on RMIM, letting people know that ITRANS existed, and asked everyone to post songs to that newsgroup using ITRANS encoding since that would allow us to print the songs in Hindi too.

Of course, things were very slow in the early days, and I had to manually edit the posts, and convert them to ITRANS transliteration. Though it was slow going, it was clear to me that it would be quite possible to start a new project: to create and collect and archive popular documents of Indian Culture --- starting off with the most popular item, the Hindi Film Songs!

This is how the ITRANS Song Book then split off ITRANS, and became its own project. This was sometime around the early 90s. In the early days, I used to monitor RMIM very closely, save any message that contained song lyrics and then transliterat it and add it to the Song Book.

Still, even with all my work, it was very slow going, and over a year or two, I only managed to make the collection only go upto around 200 songs. But then things started to gain momentum, along with the more wide-spread use of the usenet newsgroups. More people started to get enthusiastic about the Song Book, and started contributing transliterated documents.

A project like the Song Book succeeds only because of the contributions of many, many, individuals, and a record of all the persons who contributed to a song or document is available in each document in the collection. Though it would be impossible to list every one who provided major help for this project, I can single out the first group of people who moved this Song Book from being a single-person project to a Internet-wide effort, and the persons who made that transition for this project were: C. S. Sudarshana Bhat, Venkatasubramanian K Gopalakrishnan, Satish Subramanian, Ravi Rai, and Anurag Shankar.

Their help marked the beginning of the explosion in the size of the Song Book collection. From under 200, it went to over 600, and then soon to 900. The Song Book now also includes a large collection of Marathi and Sanskrit documents, in addition to the Hindi Film Songs.

This is how it all started, and just when it was getting too big for me to handle, supporting both ITRANS and the ITRANS Song Book, Anurag Shankar stepped in, and since 1994, he has been making the ISB more easily accessible over the Internet by developing WWW tools to make browsing easier. He now handles the Song Book editing and expansion, and the popularity of this song book is easily ascertained by the number of hits Anurag's WWW page gets every day (over a thousand!). Today, Anurag's ITRANS Song Book collection contains around 1300 songs!"

Anurag Shankar continues:
"While surfing the net one day at the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana (where I was a grad student at the time) around 1989-90, I came across this thing called ITRANS (and later across a collection of songs known as the "ITRANS Song Book"). Being an eternal hacker, I immediately ftp'd it and decided to install ITRANS on the local Unix box so I could create my own songs and view the hindi songs on the screen. I contacted Avinash for help with installation and we ultimately succeeded in getting it to work.

When I saw the first hindi song on the screen, I was horrified to see a large number of spelling errors staring back at me (hindi is my native language, you see). As I looked at the errors in the second, third, .... song, man, I just couldn't handle it! Almost instintively, I began to fix the errors. Days later, when I realized that I had fixed a good fraction of the archive (I was fixing them just for myself, really), it occurred to me that I could give the corrected version back to Avinash for his next release. One thing led to another, and I soon found myself editing a lot of the old and new songs (checking and fixing errors) for Avinash (which explains the origin of a large number of "Editor: Anurag Shankar ..." entries in the headers). We also hooked up with Ravi Rai at North Dakota State Univ. who was collecting a lot of the songs from RMIM and transliterating them. (Oh, and I had moved to Univ. of Arizona and then to Indiana University in the meantime as an astronomy postdoc). Being busy with other projects, Avinash suggested sometime in early fall 1994 (right after he released ISB 2.1) that I take over the ISB coordination efforts full time, an offer which I found appealing because I enjoyed working on the ISB so much (I am totally addicted to old hindi film songs and the net).

While at Indiana, I received a grant from the American Astronomical Society which allowed me to purchase a Silicon Graphics Unix workstation (which I named chandra). With my very own Unix box, I decided it was time to learn all about serving web documents. I obtained and installed the NCSA httpd web server on chandra. The ISB immediately came to mind as something which could REALLY benefit from a migration to the web. (Besides, it was a damn good pilot project for me to learn how to populate and run my web server.) I started hacking away and did my first ISB release (2.12) featuring public web access in September 1994.

As I started developing scripts for automating various administrative chores, I decided that, since the large number of independent formats for the pstats (and the lyrics) which existed at the time were too hard for me to process in scripts, all songs should be converted to a "frozen format". Natually, this took quite a while as I had to first work with Avinash and others to agree on a format and then to hack a large perl script to actually do the difficult conversion. The work was finished and ISB 3.0 was finally released to the public in late March 1995 (it featured the frozen song format which I consider to be my major contribution to the ISB). The web version of the ISB also featured a searchable song database made possible by this frozen format."