Friday, April 13, 2012

A Little History

I wrote, “You were our pride, and will always be on our minds.” on his Guest Commemorative book before I left the Memorial Hall.

I was in Beijing on 10th April, attending the 6th anniversary ceremony to commemorate the late Professor Wang Xuan (1937-2006), the founder of Peking University Founder Group, and who was also a great scientist.  But most of all, he was my mentor. Without him, PUC Founder of Malaysia wouldn't exist. Without his encouragement and support, we will never venture into biometrics technology.

Professor Wang Xuan (1937-2006)
He invented the first Chinese Laser Typesetting System, helping China to abandon the conventional typesetting system. I still remember in the 80s of last century, English Electronic Publishing System had already been widely adopted in the printing industry. But for the Chinese language, it was still at the research level, to contain the large amount of character sets (more than 10 thousands) by using the 26-Roman character keyboard, or on the verge of the Chinese input method, not to mention the printing press that required high quality fonts. How to convert the jagged Chinese characters into a smooth vector font? How could Founder achieve the same output speed on the then computer for the same size of page that contain an average of 100 times more different Chinese characters than an English page? How to paginate a Chinese content on a computer? Besides, unlike the A to Z of 26 characters, to create the Chinese font, every different typeface has to be crafted approximately to 10 thousand separate characters.

If all these hurdles remained unsolved, the Chinese nation that once invented paper in the 1st Century and movable clay typesetting in the 11th Century would have been trapped forever in the conventional way of lead-cast Chinese typesetting that was being used for the past hundred years. The Chinese publishing industry would have fallen untimely behind in the computer era.

Manually picking every lead-cast Chinese characters to construct a pre-print page
Started as an academic research project at the University in 1975, with all the hardship Professor Wang underwent, eventually his invention had helped revolutionize the whole Chinese printing industry. The commercialization process of his research work also helped to expand the entities owned by Peking University into a very large and successful enterprise.

Today, Founder Group has an annual turnover of USD 5 billion, and a staff force of 20,000, diversifies businesses in real estates, hospital, securities and etc in China and some other countries on top of its core Electronic Publishing System and other IT products.

Founder Group headquarters in Beijing
With the guidance of Professor Wang, I co-founded PUC Founder in Malaysia in 1995. The company was later developed and listed in Malaysia Stock Exchange. He knew that the Chinese electronic publishing industry might not sustain our long-term growth in this region. He then introduced to us two researchers that worked on fingerprint verification algorithm from Peking University, and he encouraged us to take on the new challenge that finally initiated our new venture.

That’s how FingerTec began its long march, and the rest is history.

Overall, I'd like to think he had a great influence over me not because he was a great scientist, but rather because he was a great man. He once said, "You have to be a respectable man to build a respectable business." And, true enough, he did lead an exemplary life.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

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