The Demise of the $.01 Sign

Originally posted by Charlie Anderson. The site seems to be hanging on but has not been updated since 2003. I liked finding a post about an ASCII art character (more history to it than that of course). We don’t think about the individual keyboard characters very often, but they have been around for centuries, long before they were placed on a keyboard.

When I was a boy, not so long ago, there was a thing called the cent sign. It looked like this: ¢

It was the dollar sign’s little brother, and lived on comic books covers and in newspaper advertisements and on pay phones and wherever anything was being sold for less than a buck. It was a popular punctuation symbol—no question mark, or dollar sign, certainly, but just behind the * in popularity, and I daresay well ahead of #, &, and the now Internet-hot @. It owned an unshifted spot on the typewriter keyboard, just to the right of the semicolon, and was part of every third grader’s working knowledge.

In the late 1990s, you don’t see many cent signs. Why? Because hardly anything costs less than a dollar anymore? Actually, the demise of the cent sign has little to do with inflation, and everything to do with computers. And therein lies a tale.

In the 1960s a disparate group of American computer manufacturers (basically, everyone but IBM) got together and agreed on an encoding standard that became known as ASCII (“ass-key”—The American Standard Code for Information Interchange). This standard simply assigned a number to each of the various symbols used in written communication (e.g., A-Z, a-z, 0-9, period, comma). A standard made it possible for a Fortran program written for a Univac machine to make sense to a programmer (and a Fortran compiler) on a Control Data computer. And for a Teletype terminal to work with a Digital computer, and so on.

So-called text files, still in widespread use today, consist of sequences of these numbers (or codes) to represent letters, spaces, and end-of-lines. Text editors, for example, the Windows Notepad application, display ASCII codes as lines of text on your screen so that you can read and edit them. Similarly, an ASCII keyboard spits out the value 65 when you type a capital ‘A,’ 65 being the ASCII code for ‘A.’

The committee decided on a seven bit code; this allowed for twice as many characters as existing six bit standards, and permitted a parity bit on eight bit tape. So there were 128 slots to dole out, and given the various non-typographic computing agendas to attend to, it was inevitable that some common symbols, including several that had always been on typewriter keyboards, wouldn’t make the cut. (The typewriter layout had certain obvious failings in computer applications, for example: overloading the digit 1 and lower case L, so it couldn’t be blindly adopted.)

Three handy fractions were cut: ¼ ½ ¾. This makes sense, especially when you consider that the ASCII committee was composed of engineers. I’m sure they thought, in their engineer’s way, “Why have ¼ but not 1/3? And if we have 1/3, then why not 1/5? Or 3/32?” Similarly, the committee apparently found $0.19 an acceptable, if somewhat obtuse, way of expressing the price of a Bic pen. At any rate, the popular and useful cent sign didn’t make it.

And so the cent sign was off keyboards, terminals, and printers. Not that many people noticed right away. The companies behind ASCII sold big, expensive computers that were used to run businesses, and few cared that there wasn’t a cent sign character on one’s new line printer. Heck, if your printer could handle lower-case letters, you were state of the art.

But when personal computers began to appear in the late 1970s, the primary application driving their adoption was word processing. These new small computers used the ASCII standard—after all, that’s what standards are for. By the millions, typewriter keyboards (with ¢) were traded in for Apple IIs and IBM PCs (without ¢). While it’s true that the cent sign was ultimately made part of other larger encoding standards, and is possible to create at modern PCs with a little effort—the damage had been done. Without a cent key in front of them, writers of books, newspapers, magazines, and advertisements made do without. And over time, $0.19 began to look like the right way to say 19¢. In another few years the cent sign will look as alien as those strange S’s our forefathers were using when they wrote the constitution.

Original Source (site is untouched since 2003): The Demise of the $.01 Sign

Maneki Neko:  Japan’s Lucky Cat

Maneki Neko:  Japan’s Lucky Cat
Maneki Neko:  Japan’s Lucky Cat
Source for inspiration: Maneki Neko: The Secrets of Japan’s Lucky Cat | Japanista (Site is gone now).
Below is information from the original post on the site. If I work on another cat this would be great to know!

The name ‘mankei neko’ can be attributed to the cat’s welcoming paw, as the literal translation is ‘beckoning cat.’ In English, these are also commonly referred to as ‘lucky cats’ due to their use as a kind of talisman, or lucky charm.

If you look closely at various maneki neko, you’ll notice certain items that are frequently held or worn by the cats.

Neck decorations: You’ll rarely see a lucky cat with an unadorned neck. Collars, decorative bibs, and bells are all common neck ornaments for maneki neko. Like today, the real pet cats of the Edo Period wore collars with bells to allow their whereabouts to be easily tracked. As for the bibs, it has been speculated that they are related to those worn by Buddhist jizo statues.

Coins: Maneki neko often hold a koban, a gold coin that was used in the Edo Period. A koban was worth one ryo (roughly $1,000 USD by today’s standards), Japan’s monetary unit of the era. You may even see a cat holding a coin marked ‘千万両’ which is ten million ryo, an incredible amount of money, especially for that time period!

A carp (koi), or other fish: This is thought to be a symbol of fortune and abundance.

Mallet of Fortune: The uchide no kozuchi, is a legendary magic hammer that can be seen in folklore such as Momotaro and The Tale of Heike. It is said to be the possession of Daikokuten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology, more specifically, a god of wealth.

Money Bag: You can probably already guess that this symbolizes luck with wealth.

Marble or Gemstone: One of these in the paws of a lucky cat symbolizes wisdom, as well as wealth.

Fan or Drum: Both of these objects represent luck with business. The drum specifically, is a symbol of a shop that is overflowing with customers.

Hollowed Gourds (hyotan): These were as containers for sake and over beverages, often used by another of the Seven Lucky Gods, Fukurokuju, the god of wisdom and longevity. It is believed to ward off evil and bring good luck.

You can tell a lot about a maneki neko by examining its raised paw. Generally speaking, the the lucky cat gestures are as follows:

Right paw raised: Brings wealth and good luck
Left paw raised: Attracts customers to a place of business
Both paws raised: Provides protection
The higher the paw is raised, the more luck the cat is said to invite!

While most often seen in the original Calico form, maneki neko are also available in a rainbow of different colors. As with gesture and ornamental variations, these too are symbolic, with each color associated with a different form of luck.

White: Positivity and purity
Black: Protection against evil
Gold: Wealth and prosperity
Red: Marriage, love, and other personal matters
Green: Education and health
Blue: Intelligence, wisdom, and success
Pink: Love and romance
Yellow: Stability, health, and relationships
Based upon all of the aforementioned variations, you can choose the lucky cat that is best for you!