Encoding of symbols, and a "lock"/"unlock" pre-proposal

From: Doug Ewell (dewell@adelphia.net)
Date: Sat May 18 2002 - 19:39:06 EDT

Recently I have seen many proposals for encoding graphical symbols. UTC
and WG2 have a criterion that says that not just any old graphical
symbol will be encoded. The symbol must be in common use in running
text, and must be used in text to represent an abstract concept on its
own, not just to show the glyph.

The canonical example in the WG2 policy statement is that a mathematical
symbol, such as the square root or integral sign, would likely be used
in plain text to convey the concepts with which they are associated,
whereas a stop sign would not. Of course, it's always possible to find
a typeset sentence like "Watch for the X sign" where X represents an
octagonal stop-sign glyph, but that is not the preferred use of the
sign, and under those conditions the stop sign would not be separately

Despite this, there have been several proposals to encode "stop
sign"-like symbols, and many have been accepted or seem on their way to
acceptance. The recycling symbols, the DO NOT LITTER guy, and the VCR
front-panel icons come to mind. Generally the only plain text in the
proposals that contain these symbols are of the form "Press the X
button" where X represents a double-arrow fast-forward button, or
"Always separate trash displaying the X symbol" where X is a recycling
symbol. This is plain text which describes and illustrates the symbol
itself. I thought these cases were more like the stop sign than the
square root sign, but I guess I didn't understand the policy correctly.

Anyway, as long as such characters are deemed appropriate for Unicode, I
was wondering recently about the "lock" and "unlock" symbols,
represented by a closed and open padlock respectively. These are often
used, sometimes in text and sometimes on Web sites, to refer to secured
or unsecured resources. (Check the "For Members" category on the
Unicode home page, for example.) These two symbols (especially "lock")
are in quite common use, comparable if not equal to the recycling and
VCR icons. They do not seem to be part of any active proposal. Is it
worth putting one together?

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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