There is a “Made in Vietnam” software that almost every computer has to install for decades, Unikey. This is something rare other Vietnamese software can do.
Born in 1994, Unikey has had 26 years of existence and development but still maintains the stability and efficiency. This is the product of Mr. Pham Kim Long, a former student of Hanoi University of Science and Technology.
In 1994, as a final year student, Pham Kim Long and three classmates challenged each other to see who created the most compact Vietnamese percussion for DOS using the Assembly programming language. As a result, Long won with only 2Kb super compact percussion – the product can be considered as the first version of Unikey later.
Graduated from the Polytechnic with honors, Pham Kim Long went to the Czech Republic to work as a PhD student at the Technical University of Prague With the ‘ideal’ technical condition in Czech now, he has the opportunity to study more and program Vietnamese percussion on Windows operating system called LittleVnKey. This version of Long has just stopped at personal use and giving to friends, even though it does not yet support the UniCode international code.
At the end of 2000, when the topic was a graduation thesis, he shouted at a famous computer forum when he saw people talking enthusiastically about Windows supporting Vietnamese Unicode. In particular, users often ask on the forum about how to unlock VietKey, UniCode support percussion on Windows but it costs money.
Creative blood emerged, Pham Kim Long decided to create free percussion to help people. He spends a design night, two nights of continuous coding for a complete version called Unikey. Besides the sincere suggestions from users, Unikey has also been widely disparaged, even spreading rumors with viruses attached to it.
However, above all, the simplicity, convenience and free of charge have helped Unikey become “national software” in Vietnam. In 2001, Mr. Long decided to publish the open source Unikey. A number of people sent letters of criticism calling Pham Kim Long’s action outrageous, killing commercial products. However, for the user community, Pham Kim Long’s work is very welcome.
In 2006, Apple contacted Pham Kim Long to gain permission to integrate the Unikey core into all its macOS and iOS products. Unexpectedly, he always gave Unikey to Apple and absolutely no charge.
In the rare time he appeared before the media, Mr. Long shared about the reason for creating Unikey free software as follows:
“It is natural for Unikey to become freeware, because it came from the needs of users who need a free keyboard program. Moreover, when something is good or something, it is natural to want to divide it. I don’t mean to oppose those who write commercial programs, they make a program to make a living with their labor, it is absolutely right. I also live by writing software but Unikey is It’s not a software to make a living Unikey is my entertainment, so writing Unikey is just serving you.
I will always maintain Unikey as free software. And moreover, Unikey is open source, anyone can take it for further development. “
At the present time, Pham Kim Long is 47 years old. He lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City and is married. He used to work for IBM Vietnam, FPT Telecom, before joining VNG in 2013 and has continued to work there so far.
20 years have passed, many colleagues at the same time are stabilizing their lives with managerial jobs, but Pham Kim Long is still plying for his new battle. Currently, he is leading a group developing mobile applications in Vietnam, of which Laban Key for Android is a remarkable software after Unikey. Launched in 2013, the app is consistently among the top downloaders on the Google Play Store with 500,000 users (as of March 2014).
Inheriting UniKey, Laban Key on Android is easy to use with interfaces compatible with multiple screen sizes. This free software has been downloaded and selected by many Vietnamese users for editing on smartphones and tablets. Unikey’s father wanted Laban Key to have the same position on mobile devices as Unikey on desktop.
In 2020, Unikey is 26 years old and is one of the few software that is older, but still running well. This is almost a default product in any Vietnamese computer. Not only is a good Vietnamese typing software, Unikey and Pham Kim Long also change the minds of many Vietnamese technology people, towards a spirit of dedication for the community rather than for their own benefit.
Translated by Thanh Tran