Dr. Aberra Molla (ዶ/ር ኣበራ ሞላ) was introduced to computers in 1976, during the punch card era, when he was a post–doctoral Clinical Science student at Colorado State University. Dr. Aberra, the pioneer of Ethiopic computerization, is a visionary who recognized the power of computers and its potential and was ahead of his time. Since 1982 or over the last 25 years, he has been and is still working with Ethiopic, the Ethiopian alphabet.
It took a while for the computer to have enough memory to accommodate Geez. Though IBM has increased the character set from 16 by 8 to 16 by 16 by 1983, the power of the computer as well as software and printers was limited to working with a few fonts and that was barely sufficient for Ethiopic prior to 1984. Dr. Aberra computerized Ethiopic for the fist time by giving a spot for each and every glyph. With the help of his son, Brook, it took a year to make one set of Geez screen and printer fonts in 1986. This was accomplished by systematically spreading the more than 400 Ethiopic glyphs on eight character sets. The first Ethiopic character set and word processor was released in 1987, though that was not the year of the invention. See one of the eight sets below in his Microsoft DOS ModEth font of the classic publisher that, for the first time, moved Ethiopic from the printing press to the computer.
Of course, the fonts alone were not useful in DOS and required simple and novel typing methods, keyboards and overlays for his double sets.
(Font 1 of 10 Ethiopian-English Layout in Shifted Position)
(ModEth Font 5)
An example of one of his criteria was the assignment of the most commonly used characters to the “A” to “Z” keys. In the English-Ethiopian keyboard, the A, B, D, F, G, H, J, K. L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, W, Y and Z QWERTY keys were assigned to the equivalent Ethiopic characters አ, በ, ደ, ፈ, ገ, ሀ, ጀ, ከ, ለ, መ, ነ, ፐ, ቀ, ረ, ሰ, ተ, ወ, የ and ዘ respectively making it simple for Ethiopians to type without the overlay. (There are Ethiopians who still use the version of the set released for Windows)
(Font 4 of 10 English-Ethiopian Layout in Default Position)
Examples of his accomplishments are pending patents and recognition in 1990 by the Ethiopian Research Council for computerizing Ethiopic and revolutionizing the Geez script.
Dr. Aberra is not only a writer, an inventor, a scientist and a married father of three engineers, but also the father of Ethiopic computing who successfully single-handedly defended the alphabet from numerous detractors for decades. Without his effort even Unicode, that expanded the computer character set to 16 by 16 by 16, in 1990, would have been mislead to standardize the fake and incomplete Amharic typewriter glyphs as Amharic or Ethiopic. Without his effort, Unicode would not have included the minority Ethiopic Agew/Bilen and Guragie glyphs in 2002, characters that were there by then in Aberra’s sets for over a decade.
The pictures below shows some Geez glyphs not yet included in Unicode.