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While programming in BASIC and FOCAL on my BK-0010-01, I wonder why both the keyboard and the character set have unusual representations of ASCII 36 and ASCII 94?

  • ASCII 36: Standard:$ ; BK version: ¤
  • ASCII 94: Standard:^ ; BK version: ¬

In researching this question, I have discovered that ¤ in Unicode is "currency symbol", so if this symbol was also understood as this in the 1980s in the Soviet Union, I suppose this might explain the choice, to have something more international (or less capitalist!) than a dollar sign.

But the use of ¬ is perplexing, particularly as in Unicode this is labelled "not sign", so much for the modern meaning. As ^ is used for powers in FOCAL, I wonder if ¬ might have been used for the same purpose in Soviet mathematics?

I insert a picture of the keyboard of my computer, with the keys providing the two symbols shown, and screenshots of the two symbols in use in FOCAL and BASIC where ^ and $ would be expected respectively.

BK-0010-01 keyboard with keys highlighted

Use of not as caret in BK Focal

Use of currency symbol as dollar in Vilnius Basic

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    ¤ apparently goes back to 1972 specifically for international extensions to ASCII and appeared on other keyboards: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Currency_sign_(typography) Jun 5, 2023 at 3:02
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    The Russian ruble and the Russian ruble symbol both post-date the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet ruble did not have its own symbol, they just used an abbreviation.
    – harlandski
    Jun 5, 2023 at 8:15
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    The ¤ symbol used to be called prasátko (piglet) in Czech.
    – Edheldil
    Jun 5, 2023 at 8:44
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    The ¤ also appeared on the Swedish ABC80 and its successor, the ABC80x series, where it was called "sol" ("sun" in Swedish). Jun 5, 2023 at 15:04
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    @TurePålsson It was also a part of the official 7-bit Swedish character set instead of $.
    – UncleBod
    Jun 8, 2023 at 8:59

1 Answer 1

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The solution is rather simple, as the BK is using KOI8 with Graphic symbols in row Ax/Bx. KOI8 is somewhat similar to ISO 8859, as the lower 128 symbols are equivalent to ISO 646-IRV (*1,2,3,4). ISO-646-IRV in turn features the mentioned currency symbol in position 24.

Now, the usage of NOT in position 5E is rather strange, as it does not follow any generic standard - and should not be there according to the BK-0010 BASIC manual. If at all, that symbol should be at 7E.


*1 - International Reference Version

*2 - It's important to keep in mind that what is commonly called ASCII is the US version of ISO 646 (646-US) which differs in position 24 and 7E from the IRV, that is Dollar and Tilde. Other countries had similar variations, like the UK having Pound instead of Hash and NOT instead of Tilde (23).

*3 - There were changes: Original 1967 646-IRV used to have the currency symbol at 24 and an upper bar (commonly known as NOT) at 7E. The 1983 version changed upper bar for Tilde, while the 1991 version also moved the Dollar sign into the position 24. Thus only the newest version of IRV equals ASCII.

*4 - KOI8 is also a very interesting code as the Cyrillic characters are not following the common (Russian) Cyrillic sort order but are placed according to their Latin equivalent. This is a neat hack, as stripping KOI8 coded text gives a mostly readable transliteration to Latin.

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    I'd add that in early "ASCII variants" as used by e.g. Epson dot-matrix printers the American-style # character was repurposed as the local currency symbol (i.e. £ in the case of the UK). It's almost as though the Soviet designers had some reason to despise the dollar... Jun 5, 2023 at 6:58
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    @MarkMorganLloyd Not really, as the only other currency sign was the Pound/Lira one and it was always at 23. Also, what you call 'early ASCII-Variants' are ISO 646 country versions. They are well defined, so many devices were switchable between them.
    – Raffzahn
    Jun 5, 2023 at 21:26

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