Soviet Software That `Reads' American Graffiti

Is the handwriting on the wall for computer keyboards? So-called pen PCs--laptop computers that recognize numbers and letters written on their screens--are proliferating. And many of them now are said to be able to read cursive handwriting rather than the careful printing required by earlier models.

Surprisingly, some of the breakthroughs needed for that feat came out of the Soviet Union via ParaGraph JV, a Soviet-American joint venture based in Moscow. Its U. S. outpost, ParaGraph International in Boulder, Colo., recently sold a nonexclusive license for its cursive-recognition software, developed by Soviet programmers, to Apple Computer Inc. According to Michael S. Riemer, ParaGraph International's director of product marketing, the software can also recognize formulas, symbols, and simple graphics. Although the software currently "understands" only English, ParaGraph plans to create versions that recognize Russian and other languages.

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