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    Re: Navigation Symbols in Unicode
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2021 Aug 11, 12:15 -0700

    David C, you asked:
    "I have just looked at my post on an android phone. It displays the emoticon versions not the real versions. Grrrr!!!!
    Libre office, firefox on linux show the real versions. Is there any way to block emoticons or have they taken over the world?"

    Yes, there is a way to force non-emoji versions of special characters, and mostly it works, but not always! That's how I was able to include a clean Aries symbol and an emoji Aries symbol in one post, and then I asked how they looked on different devices and browsers.

    Any unicode character can be defined by a number or a sequence of numbers for composite characters, and this number or sequence can be represented as a binary number, a decimal number, a hexadecimal number, or other. Mostly we encounter decimal and hexadecimal or "hex" representations. For example, the Aries symbol is unicode 2648 in hex but unicode 9800 in decimal (there are many hex-to-decimal conversion tools online, like this one). Often hex versions of numbers are obvious because they have letters in them. In hex we count from 0 to 9 and then continue with A through F. It's base-16 counting. The letter "F" comes up regularly in hex versions of numbers in computing and represents a decimal number 15 or a binary number 1111 (all lights on! ...a full house of binary bits lit up), or if you want to think of binary numbers in terms of heads and tails, the hex number "F" is equal to four coins all showing heads. That hex letter F, the decimal number 15, the binary number 1111, and four coins all heads are just different ways of representing a number. Notice that the hex representation of the Aries code has no letters in it. It's just 2648 in hex, and there's no visual clue that this is hex. It is the same number as decimal 9800.

    There are various unicode characters which act as invisible modifiers. Among these are the "text presentation selector" (which is what we want!) and the "emoji presentation selector". Like modifier characters which add accents or details in complex character systems (think written Chinese), these modifiers are added on to a base character. Are these modified individual characters (one "letter" with several codes defining it)? Or are these strings of characters with different pieces concatenated? Well, that's just a matter of definition, and either viewpoint works. In our case, the text presentation selector modifies the special character and immediately follow it. It is not a visible character by itself. Text presentation is activated when a symbol is followed by unicode FE0E (clearly the hex representation). Emoji presentation, by contrast, is forced when the symbol is followed by unicode FE0F (those are 65038 and 65039 respectively when reprsented as decimal numbers). So great! You type (in whatever way is appropriate on your system) 2648 for Aries and then you type FE0E. And that gives you a plain typography Aries symbol that looks as we expect it. There are some "gotchas" with this process (is there an emoji for "gotchas"? ...seems like there should be). First, copy and paste may be problematic since we have added an invisible, zero-width character. Systems with proper unicode implementations are supposed to do this, but it's an exotic function, and there are bugs. Second, not all systems properly understand the presentation selector characters. More details here: http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr51/#def_text_presentation_selector.

    In addition to uncertain and inconsistent implementation of the "presentation selector" codes, fonts are not required to include all unicode characters and most still include subsets optimized for some contexts. Some fonts simply do not include the zodiac characters. My own feeling on this is that we are "not there yet" using Aries symbols in navigation discussions. You can certainly include special characters when you control the text from end to end. But if there's any quoting or copy and paste or passge from one system to another that's not entirely under your curaction, you can expect trouble. 

    When I'm writing by hand, I just use lower case "a" instead, so if I need to I would abbreviate LHA Aries as LHAa. While it's sometimes "nice" to see the Aries symbol, it is, after all, still confusing to many people. It's occasionally confused with a capital "gamma" (as you may have noticed in a message this week). The symbol is not a gamma, but complicating matters the poor typography of older editions of Pub.249 used a "gamma" from an odd font as a "poor man's Aries". This was a hack, a cheap trick. Unfortunately, many practical navigators don't know this and assume that it's supposed to be a "gamma".

    Finally, getting back to the neat little tool that started this, I'll emphasize that I can get a degree symbol in Windows with one keyboard tap in any application. No fussing with unicode or two-hand alt sequences, no compatibility issues. It just works, and it's easy to set up. Look: °. Here's my original post on that for anyone who missed it: Degree sign in Windows.

    David C, you also wrote:
    "On another forum i had younger members askimg what  IMHO and IIRC and FWIIW and ISTR meant."

    It's amazing, isn't it? Myself, I've been through nearly two generations of online chat jargon and styling. I remember an evening in 1991 chatting in a beautiful DOS-based GUI version of "America Online" (back when it was expensive and genuinely cool). I asked someone what the funny thing was that they had typed in an online chat. It was a colon, followed by a dash, and followed by a close parenthesis, like so :-). It was a "smiley". At the time I thought it must be some sort of glitch involving Apple Macs and DOS PCs communicating. And now those text-based "emoticons" are becoming unfamiliar, replaced by "emojis" and short "reaction GIFs". All I can say is wtf?! :-D

    Frank Reed

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