4. Arabic and Ethiopic Numbers in SERA

The Arabic and Ethiopic numerals will both be given with the Arabic numbers found on Latin keyboards. The Arabic numbers may be used in the usual way from any text ``zone''. Ethiopic numbers require the alternate specifier, ` , before the numbers. An understanding of the Ethiopic number system will benefit the composer.

4.1. Arabic Numbers

In present day writing practices the Arabic numerals are found in considerably for frequent use than the Ethiopic. Under this consideration it would most benefit the typist to be able to key-in the more common of the two number systems with the minimal of effort. Thus the Arabic numbers are given precedence of the Ethiopic and may be given directly without the use of the SERA alternate mechanism ` .

4.2. Ethiopic Numbers

From any ``zone'' of text in a document, Fidel or otherwise, the alternate specifier ` will be required preceding the string of numbers to be transliterated into Ethiopic numerals. Multiple forms of representation are also permittable:
  `10`9`100`80`7 = `109100807 = `10900807 = [Image of 1987]
An explanation of this convention follows:

For most practical email exchanges it is enough to type ``1987'' to communicate to the reader the year nineteen-hundred-and-eighty-seven. But for a machine to interpret the Arabic numbers into Ethiopic, ``1987'' becomes a highly ambiguous sequence of numbers. The following is offered to present a method to represent Ethiopic numbers with Arabic for simple computer translation.

In our example, ``1987'', though understood as a Christian year could easily have been a part of a phone number, a street address, or most anything in another context. As there are 20 Ethiopic numbers (21 if the letter ``xi'', used for 1,000 is counted) we are presented with the problem of interpreting then, which numbers the typist had intended to communicate.

In example: is 1987 to be read as the 6 Ethiopic numbers 10-100-9-100-80-7. Or the 5 numbers 10-9-100-80-7, or the 4 numbers 10-9-80-7 , 10-9-8-7, 1-90-8-7, or finally (skipping a few other possibilities) 1-9-8-7.

Writing each of the 20 Ethiopic numbers discreetly avoids the ambiguity problem and the Christian year 1987 is written as 109100807.

It may seem a little ungainly to have to type 9 Arabic numbers so that a computer can understand that 5 Ethiopic numbers are desired. This problem can be affected slightly by applying some of the same philosophy that was presented for denoting the forms of consonants for Ethiopic letters. With the same method applied here the numbers 1,2,3,4...9 are thought of as consonants and the vowels are then 0, 00, 000, and 0000 to denote the forms "tens", "hundreds", "thousands", and "ten-thousands" (analogous to "g`Iz", "ka`Ib", "sals", and "rab`I"). We then have a Fidel for numbers :

 ones   tens   hundreds  thousands  ten-thousands ....
          0       00        000         0000

  1      10      100       1000        10000
  2      20      200       2000        20000
  3      30      200       3000        30000
  4      40      400       4000        40000
  9      90      900       9000        90000
and we may write the same 5 Ethiopic numbers for the year 1987 with the 8 Arabic numbers 10900807. It is intrinsic in this system that when the number of zeros, 0, following a one (1,2,3...9) is greater than 2, that 2 Ethiopic numbers are being represented. That is, it is understood that 200 is equivalent to the Ethiopic 2-100 and 2000 is 20-100. If one wishes to use ``xi'' as a number, 2000 should then be written as 2xi. A small computer algorithm that determines Ethiopic numbers with the system described, is available from the authors.

As a last thought on the representation of Ethiopic numbers with Arabic we suggest that if commas "," or decimals "." be used to denote orders of a thousand as in $5,362 , that the number be interpreted strictly as a summation. In this instance 5,362 = 5000 + 300 + 60 + 2 and is written in Ethiopic as either the 5 characters 50-100-400-60-2 or 5-xi-400-60-2.