From: Jukka K. Korpela (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Mar 29 2005 - 04:26:13 CST
On Tue, 29 Mar 2005, Arcane Jill wrote:
> Aha - I always wondered why I sometimes see hash refered to as "pound
> sign". I had previously assumed it had something to do with the "old
> days" (I can remember them) when we only had seven-bit encodings.
That's actually true, too, so we can make ourselves confused two ways.
The position 0x23 was actually assigned to the pound sterling sign, too.
I don't know whether this has something to do with the use of "#" to
denote the pound as a unit of weight (mass). (Of course the two uses
of "pound" are historically connected; the currency unit originally
corresponded to one pound [lb] of silver, or something.)
There are different wordings in different versions of ASCII and
ISO/IEC 646, as well as ECMA-6 (which is equivalent to ISO/IEC 646 and
freely available at http://www.ecma-international.org/ ). But
basically the idea was that 0x23 could be used for '#' and '£'
upon mutual agreement, possibly with one or the other set as
the default depending on environment. This was of course risky play,
though I don't think it caused much disaster, since in a sense
it just made 0x23 an ambiguous character that has two essentially
different shapes and uses. What's more problematic is that on some
devices, you might see '£' without being able to know whether the
character is encoded as 0x23 or as 0xa3.
> In England, I can remember
> using a computer in which 0x23 encoded U+00A3 (the real POUND SIGN), and
> certainly it is the case even now that SHIFT+3 gets you '#' on an American
> keyboard, but '£' on a British keyboard.
And, for example, a Finnish keyboard has both of the characters engraved
into the '3' key, so that SHIFT+3 produces '#' and AltGr+3 (or
SHIFT+ALT+3) produces '£' (as 0xa3).
-- Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
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