The Man Who Minds His Zs And Qs

Quietly but zealously, entrepreneur Bernard Riskin has spent four years on a zanily quixotic crusade to get the letters Q and Z put onto telephone keypads. Now, he's zeroing in on his quarry. On Feb. 15, a working group of the International Standards Organization--meeting in Quebec--endorsed Riskin's plan to put Q on the 7 key and Z on the 9. That responded to a query zipped over from another standard-setter, the Comite Consultatif International de Telephonie et de Telegraphie. Final approval could take a couple of years.

Riskin's quest has a business angle: He's president of Fon-Ex Inc. in Lambertville, N. J., which is promoting its patented method to recognize words entered by phone keypad by using a computer to analyze the input. For example, Fon-Ex software can guess that 9-3-2-7-2 probably spells "zebra," not "xecsa." Fon-Ex could let telephones communicate with pocket pagers that display messages and telephone-typewriters for the hearing-impaired, among other devices.

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