7-bit characters today

13 May 2009

I got this error message when I tried to log on to my bank today:

It’s in Swedish but note the strange use of curly braces and pipe characters. Back in the eighties it was common to have national code pages where certain seldom used characters in the ASCII set were replaced by national characters. For Swedish, the mapping included:

{ (left curly brace) mapped to ä (lower case a with umlaut)

} (right curly brace) mapped to å (lower case a with circle above)

(pipe) mapped to ö (lower case o with umlaut)

It was common that software didn’t map correctly to the national characters. Many users learned to read the braces and pipes fluently instead. I can’t remember the last time I saw this character mapping used. It must have been 15 years ago or so. Until today.

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