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116 votes
Accepted

Why is Windows using CR+LF and Unix just LF when Unix is the older system?

This is covered largely in the history section of Wikipedia’s entry on newlines. Basically there are two primary lineages of operating systems leading to modern-day desktop usage: Windows on the one ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
80 votes

Why do keyboards have an asterisk key?

Keyboards have an asterisk because typewriters did, long before computers existed. Typewriters, particularly mechanical ones, typically made a number of compromises to reduce the number of keys ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
74 votes
Accepted

Why do keyboards have an asterisk key?

Computer terminal keyboards needed to reproduce the symbols available on punched cards and paper tape. In the US, punched cards dominated the data-processing industry (communications uses tended to ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.9k
48 votes
Accepted

How did the various Soviet ZX Spectrum clones support Cyrillic text?

I own a clone produced in Ukrainian Soviet Republic - "ОРЕЛЬ БК-08". It supports Cyrillic and Latin fonts. The main idea is similar to ANSI.SYS approach for DOS. There is a special control ...
Vlad's user avatar
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30 votes
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Why does the default base64 encoding use forward slash /?

I'm not aware of a (published) rationale for the choice of '+' and '/' as encoding characters, as well as '=' for padding / end-of-message, and I strongly suspect there isn't one. Base64 was designed ...
Michael Graf's user avatar
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24 votes
Accepted

C64/PETSCII block graphic symbol: was there ever a logical reason for their "ASCII" codes?

The "PETSCII" encoding is based on keyboard positions of the original PET chicklet keyboard (*1): (Taken from Wikipedia) The keyboard is made similar to basic typewriter keyboards, but ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 225k
23 votes
Accepted

What was the intended use for the character symbols for control codes in codepage 437?

The first 32 characters in code page 437 were apparently mostly chosen in a single, four-hour “meeting” in a plane, with three people: David J. Bradley, who developed the PC ROM-BIOS, Andy Saenz, who ...
Stephen Kitt's user avatar
20 votes
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Why was PETSCII based on an obsolete version of ASCII?

TL;DR PETSCII isn't "based on ASCII". Rather, the specifications Commodore wanted for PETSCII caused them to "back into" supporting the only version of the ASCII standard that didn'...
Brian H's user avatar
  • 60.8k
18 votes

Why do keyboards have an asterisk key?

The reason to use * instead of × is disambiguation. × looks very similar to x now, even more so in the early days of computing, before the laser printer became ubiquitous and you needed typesetting ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 481
18 votes

Can you read the character definitions (font) in an Apple II using PEEK in Applesoft BASIC?

No, it's not possible to read the built-in text mode font data from "inside" the machine. (Update: Except perhaps in the Apple IIgs - see below.) In all Apple II models the font data is in a ...
Nick Westgate's user avatar
18 votes

Why does the default base64 encoding use forward slash /?

This answer is speculation but it's too long for a comment and I suspect any answer is likely to involve some speculation. We can however look to RFC821, the famous Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (...
JeremyP's user avatar
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16 votes
Accepted

Is there a common convention to describe the encoding of a legacy text file?

The closest thing to a universal convention (in the sense that it can be applied to any kind of text file, not necessarily universal adoption) that I know of is Emacs’ file-local variable declarations:...
user3840170's user avatar
  • 23.1k
15 votes

Is there a common convention to describe the encoding of a legacy text file?

When 8-bit codepages were in use, files were rarely transferred from one computer to another that used a different character set. So all files on the filesystem were assumed to contain text in the ...
Paul Humphreys's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

How to decode mojibake in old Macintosh text files?

(Summarizing the various comments.) Filenames and text files on HFS disks are usually encoded with an Apple-specific character set, often Mac OS Roman. This particular disk uses a mix of that and ...
14 votes

Why is Windows using CR+LF and Unix just LF when Unix is the older system?

At the time the PC came out, there were at least five common approaches used by ASCII-based devices and systems: Devices receiving a CR would advance to the start of the next line, and lines were ...
supercat's user avatar
  • 37k
14 votes
Accepted

Were any decimal-based computers capable of handling text?

Really early computers like the Mark I and ENIAC didn't have enough memory to attempt to handle text; also the use-case was mostly calculations. A number of decimal IBM computers used characters (with ...
dirkt's user avatar
  • 28.1k
11 votes

Is UTF-8 responsible for a lot of the cpu-needed bloat in the last ten to fifteen years?

It's not. The price you pay is that it basically makes all parsing optimizations that rely on a fixed relationship of byte offset to character position unusable. Okay, but what parsing optimisations ...
wizzwizz4's user avatar
  • 18.7k
11 votes

Why do keyboards have an asterisk key?

Circa 1950 Royal typerwriter. Top row of keys, second from the right. What do you see?
Hot Licks's user avatar
  • 421
10 votes

How was the APL character set represented on IBM mainframes?

It's important to keep in mind, that there weren't that much symbols using overstrike in basic (IBM) APL. By using an 8 bit codeset they all could be integrated. The most common charset on the ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 225k
10 votes

C64/PETSCII block graphic symbol: was there ever a logical reason for their "ASCII" codes?

I think the codes were laid out so that when laid out sensibly on the PET keyboard, the shifted and unshifted forms of each key would have a consistent relationship. When the VIC-20 reduced the ...
supercat's user avatar
  • 37k
10 votes
Accepted

Why ASCII paper tape has lower bit punched from the narrow side?

If you want to read it as octal, having the low order 3 bits grouped together is handy. Many of the early ASCII tables showed the codes in octal. HEX makes more sense once your computers begin to ...
Walter Mitty's user avatar
  • 6,158
10 votes

How prevalent is the CR (classic MacOS) line ending today?

If your parser library is not designed to run on Classic Mac OS, there's no reason whatsoever to support a bare CR as a line ending. Modern macOS has only ever supported them insofar as some of its ...
JeremyP's user avatar
  • 11.7k
10 votes
Accepted

Why does CP1252 have these unused codepoints?

CP1252 grew out of a combination of ECMA-94 (which was derived from DEC's MCS) and Apple's Mac Roman (*1), these 5 positions are reserved for future expansion, a future that never happened. (*2) It ...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 225k
9 votes

Is UTF-8 responsible for a lot of the cpu-needed bloat in the last ten to fifteen years?

No. As an American, which I'm guessing you are, you probably operated in an ASCII bubble. As a Western European, which you might be, you at least had some not-quite-ASCII variant of a 7-bit character ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.9k
9 votes

How prevalent is the CR (classic MacOS) line ending today?

The pbpaste command used to generate CR line endings up until Mac OS 10.6, at least. With Mojave and Big Sur, however, it's long gone. MS Office on Mac used to be a dreadful emitter of CRs. It's now ...
scruss's user avatar
  • 21.7k
9 votes

Why do BK computers have unusual representations of $ and ^

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-...
Raffzahn's user avatar
  • 225k
8 votes
Accepted

Was there an input device capable of entering all Algol 60 symbols with correct appearance?

Except for the full set of upper- and lowercase letters, there was. The Soviet character encoding standard GOST 10859-64 included all of the ALGOL-60 special characters, and there were card punchers ...
Leo B.'s user avatar
  • 19.4k
8 votes

Why does CP1252 have these unused codepoints?

The Windows-1252 character set gradually evolved. Per Wikipedia: The original version, distributed with Windows 1.0 (1985), was based on an early draft of ISO-8859-1 that did not include the × and ÷ ...
dan04's user avatar
  • 1,084
7 votes

What file systems / encapsulation formats used ASCII control characters?

The codes in question were normally used to simulate special interrupts and/or control cards. The idea is that you could take a stack of 80-column punch cards (for instance) and translate them as a ...
Maury Markowitz's user avatar
7 votes

How widely used were C1 control codes?

Within DEC, "all the time". Why send two bytes down a wire at a lousy 300-to-1200 bps when one byte would do? DEC terminals from the VT200 series onwards supported an 8-bit character set ...
dave's user avatar
  • 35.9k

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