Re: Is this in Unicode?

From: Frank da Cruz (
Date: Thu Oct 12 2000 - 12:56:45 EDT

> At 03:09 AM 10/12/2000 -0800, Michael Everson wrote:
> >Well, John, it might be helpful if I could see the other characters in the
> >font, as this might put the character in context. Having said that, I don't
> >recognize this particular one, but it reminds me of a symbol which can be
> >used to indicate hexadecimal numbers. That symbol is usually a square with
> >four rays protruding from the corners, or sometimes a circle with four rays
> >protruding in the same positions (as an O and X superimposed and hollow).
Early versions of the "currency symbol" looked like that -- four long rays
coming out of a hollow circle, somewhat Sputnik-like.

John Hudson <> wrote:
> The other characters in the font don't provide any context for this thing,
> otherwise I might have had an easier time figuring out what it was supposed
> to be. This glyph was added to a custom font at some point in its history
> because somebody needed it at the time, and now no one can remember what it
> was or why it was needed (but, of course, they might need it again, so it
> has to go into the new font). I'm tempted to go with Otto Stoltz's
> suggestion of square lozenge (despite the size of the example in the
> Unicode book), because there are a couple of other characters from that
> block in the fonts.
I remember this character from early computing days; I think it was on the
IBM 026 key punch. You can see it throughout C.E. Mackenzie's book, "Coded
Character Sets, History and Development" (Addison-Wesley, 1980), where it is
included in most of the early card codes including Version 1 of BCDIC
(precursor of EBCDIC), developed by IBM for the 700-series of computers in
the 1950s. According to Mackenzie, the lozenge "appeared on printer chains
[and] was put to various uses; for example, to indicate, in the margin of a
tabulation, final totals as contrasted to subtotals".

The lozenge character's fortunes declined when ASCII was developed; there
was no room for it. IBM decided to not to carry it forward into EBCDIC for
the System/360 because it was not in ASCII. Nevertheless, it was sometimes
"dualed" with right parenthesis in later versions of BCDIC and in EBCDIC
itself due to customer demand.

I recall seeing lozenge and similar other long-forgotten cryptic "computer
language" characters in snatches of "source code" included in Fred Hoyle's
1950-something science-fiction book, "The Black Hole" (which included some
rather rosy predictions of what computers would soon be able to do for us).
I don't have the book any more, so I can't check this myself, but I wonder
if (unlike "Hamlet" :-) that book could be completely encoded in Unicode...

- Frank

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