Curious case of the disappearing Polish S


The joys of accented characters. Some languages just love to have these unneeded unwanted unasked for extras. And then you end up with not one, not two, not three, but FIVE bloody different charset tables for the same language!

And a database in one, screen in other, and printer in the third. And keyboard driver that matches one or another. Gotta love the printers, especially the printers! (Is any technician here who does not harbor a very special kind of love for printers? Where is the paperless office we were being promised in 90’s? Where? I am waiting!)

I haven’t printed a page in nearly 10 years. Only ones I’ve had printed were for legal documents.

So, I guess the paperless office is right here.


The paperless office is just down the hall on the left, next to the paperless bathroom.


Three seashells! THREE SEASHELS!!!
…and they STILL don’t have flying cars…

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ISTR that a common practice for composing diacritics on manual typewriters was that the diacritic was typed first, and it was a “dead” key that didn’t advance the carriage. Then the letter was typed. That saves using the backspace key which can save considerable time because the the backspace key is often typed with a pinky and usually requires considerable pressure because it has to work AGAINST the spring that advances the carriage, rather than just releasing platten one space as most keys do.

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old russian texts are full of strange characters-- “ѣ”, for instance that no one else has used since the revolution. Makes OCR a right pain.

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I disagree that they are unneeded or unwanted. Czech has a lot of those extra diacritics and they were originally devised by Jan Hus (the Czech reformer who predated Luther by a century). I believe they were intended to make the writing more compact, because a lot of the sounds required 2 characters such as Cz or sh etc. (I believe Polish still retains a lot of these despite having some letters with diacritics)
I guess it makes keyboards a bit more complicated, but I suppose it’s still better than Chinese keyboards.


I am aware of that, and had it with all the specs (Kamenicky, Latin2, KOI8, Windows-1250, UTF8). I stand by the claim that they are unneeded, and, at least from the position of most of sysadmins before the age of UTF8 that made it somewhat more bearable, definitely unwanted.

And then there are the trouble with codepages in PostgreSQL dump files. And the issues with file names, when rescuing data. Using non-ASCII characters in file names is bad data hygiene, can bite you years later.

7-bit ASCII should be enough for everybody, that’s what transliterations are for. Would make things much easier for all of us.

You had 1’s? We had to use the letter ‘l’.


Onetwothree … “Tradish-urrrn!”


Seven-bit ASCII is fine for English, perhaps, but in Spanish, “año” and “ano” are two very different words.


For that case, “an~o” is good enough.

well from a computer use point of view I get it. Regarding special characters, being a printer, we would run into some issues. Sometimes customers wanted letterpress printed business cards, which could actually be quickly handset and cast on a ludlow. (People also wanted a deep impression, which was actually bad letterpress in the old days, but hey…)

Then, when everyone started including email addresses the @ symbol was an issue as none of the old typefaces included the @ symbol. Substituting other symbols just didn’t work. (The ludlow and fonts are long gone, sold for scrap).

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Poor machine… Too many machines from the Legacy Era got scrapped. I saw one printing house, back before The Revolution, with brass types set to rows with a typewriter-like machine, and to which type metal was cast to form individual text lines for the newspaper…

Random thought, could the @ type be custom-made? Metal engraving can be done even manually.

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in my day,


Yes, actually I do the occasional metal engraving (by hand with tools or dremel) for embossing dies (or inkless intaglio) or is done with CNC router. The easier option is to have a metal die etched. (Which is done photographically, quite common for jobs that are foil stamped or embossed or both. (One of the uses for letterpress now, along with die-cutting, perforating or numbering)

But if you are going to send out for a die (it adds to the job cost) you are obviously going to do the whole bus. card rather than just the @'s.

The other issues with the Ludlow - it only let you set lines of type by hand and took quite some time to melt the lead and stank up the shop. You probably mean the old Linotype, which I got to try as a kid in Europe, in the shop my dad worked. A marvel really, it could justify type, and even back then in the 60s could store books on a magnetic tape. (I think Linotype Hell is still around)

Back in the 80s we had another typesetting machine, (am compugraphic) which (definitely not WYSIWYG) used a computer with all sorts of formatting type of instructions for photo-typesetting onto photographic paper or film. It was a marvel really, the Fonts were on a mylar type disks which spun around and moved back and forth, exposing one letter at a time inside the machine. (Although if you needed to change fonts, it meant opening it up and exposing the paper) The photopaper was taken out put through a processor to be developed and then still needed to be run through a waxer and cut and pasted on a board, and then a neg was made with a camera and then a plate from that.

I should have kept one of the font disks, hardly anyone would recognize it now. Oh and the compugraphic used 8" floppy disks (similar to the very first pc floppies but bigger). And cost around a $100 grand new, we bought it used for about $10grand and thought it was a deal then.

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We once had a vendor doing a demonstration, and he was wondering why some of the records were in all caps…Because they’re from the 60s and the Fieldata character set didn’t waste space by having separate upper case and lower case characters…If it really mattered, you could use the UC or LC control characters to tell the printer that everything that follows was upper case or lower case respectively. But I was also using punched paper tape this century…

I’m not that old… But I do remember that Apple DOS 3.3 could only interpret uppercase letters. Caps Lock needed to be clicked into place,

There are hetronyms in English, but native speakers don’t seem to be bothered by the fact that they are spelled the same.