112 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 ...
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 ...
73 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 ...
  • 31.3k
47 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 ...
  • 1,521
27 votes
Accepted

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 ...
  • 8,892
23 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 ...
  • 195k
22 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 ...
20 votes
Accepted

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'...
  • 59.1k
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 ...
  • 431
17 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 ...
16 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 (...
  • 10.9k
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 ...
  • 24k
12 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 ...
  • 32.3k
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?
  • 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 ...
  • 195k
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 ...
  • 32.3k
10 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 ...
  • 18.1k
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 ...
  • 5,033
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 ...
  • 10.9k
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 ...
  • 31.3k
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 ...
  • 18.9k
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 ...
  • 17.7k
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 ...
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 ...
  • 31.3k
6 votes

How widely used were C1 control codes?

However, C1 have hardly left any impression nowadays beyond 0x85 Next Line. Not restricted to C1. Not much of any control character has still an 'impression' nowadays. Unicode just ignores other C1 ...
  • 195k
6 votes

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

Is the CR line ending still prevelant on new applications or should it be considered legacy? As usual it all depends on the environment your software is used in. If you're sure that all input will be ...
  • 195k
6 votes

Was ∆ used in APL as a substitute for space because ECMA-17/ISO 2047 specified △ as graphical representation for space?

Some observations, not an entire answer. In APL\360, only upper case letters, underlined upper case letters, and digits were allowed in user-defined names. (There were a couple of exceptions: ...
  • 31.3k
5 votes

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

I'll express a somewhat dissenting opinion to the rest of the provided until now answers: yes, UTF-8 (or, rather, more generally Unicode at large) is partially and indirectly responsible for the bloat ...
  • 1,570
5 votes

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

For what it's worth, I did a quick photo of my C-64 and VIC-20 keyboards, so it's very easy to see the physical grouping of the various graphics/symbols. Commodore C-64 Keyboard: Commodore VIC-20 ...
  • 8,900
5 votes

How was the APL character set represented on IBM mainframes?

IBM had several different APL mainframe implementations, and they where updated and modified over many years to support different types of hardware and I/O equipment over their life time. The source ...

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