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Re: ASCII-only startup message?

From: Per Starbäck
Subject: Re: ASCII-only startup message?
Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2015 20:27:38 +0100

>> That one character has several meanings, as the exclamation mark
>> "!" also means factorial doesn't mean it needs to be seen as two
>> characters.
> Correct.  It does not imply that it NEEDS to be seen as two
> characters.  But it also does not imply that it NEEDS to be
> seen as the one and the same character.

> Consider the apostrophe and the prime mark.  You could argue
> that they do not NEED to be seen as separate characters.  But
> the (better) choice was made to use separate chars for them.

No, only out of ignorance could you argue that, since they don't even
look the same. Please recognize that typography is much older than
computers, and that the "choice" that those should be different
characters goes back a long time. It's not something that anyone alive
when the Unicode consortium was founded has had any input on.

For most characters (included all mentioned in this post) the correct
chronology is this:
(1) there is a bunch of characters, used in writing and typesetting
(2) some technology (typewriters, computers) create some new ersatz
characters that are used as several "real" characters, for simplicity
(3) later technology creates bigger character sets that have all those
characters. Of course the "ersatz characters" still exist as well, and
it is they that have special syntactic meanings in programming
languages etc. (Also people often use keep using them in typed text
since it's easier to enter, as I do in this text for example.)

You keep arguing as if step (1) didn't exist, that the ascii
characters are the original characters and the Unicode consortium then
decides to split some of them up more or less arbitrarily.

> Unicode made choices, and no doubt good ones.  But they are
> *choices*: same char for different uses of !, same char for
> different uses of ’, but different chars for different uses
> of − and -.

There *are* certainly some interesting choices made, but these are
not. All of your examples are established since a long time before
computers even existed. You think "different uses of ~ and -" only
because you have been conditioned by typewriters and computers
(probably primarily the latter) into thinking there is *one* character
"-" that is used in various ways.

> Or consider character HYPHEN-MINUS (U+002D), character HYPHEN
> (U+2010), and character MINUS SIGN (U+2212).
> You might say that the first of these is analogous to the ASCII
> apostrophe (U+0027) - it is essentially for compatibility.

Yes, that is true, but not for compatibility between "apostrophe" and
"right single quotation mark" as that imagined argument continues in
your post, but for compatibility between "left single quotation mark"
and "right single quotation mark" as well as less common characters
like "prime".

It is also analogous to ASCII " which is a compatibility character
between primarily "left double quotation mark" and "right double
quotation mark" (but also for less common characters like "double

I've cut down on quotations. This can have a tendency to run away into
what isn't relevant. What *is* relevant is that there is common
misconception that ASCII ' someone is *more* correct as apostrophe
than it is as a quotation character. It just isn't. In "lazy"
typewritten text (like this), by all means use ' and ". In
good-looking text they just aren't used. This is relevant for Emacs as
it has been decided to sometimes show such "good-looking text".

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