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I recently came across a handwritten note with directions to push a string of text into a database. There was a strange character in the string I've never seen before, a lower case 'b' with a forward slash through it:

b with a slash through it

I asked the author about it and he said it was an old-school way of representing a space.

My question is whether or not this was a standard/widely used representation of a space character and if so, whether or not it's still commonly used.

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  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby - I get where you're coming from on that. What I'm after is the context in which it was originally used and whether it still has a use today. Hopefully that's clear by the question. $\endgroup$ – TheIronCheek Dec 13 '17 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ @TheIronCheek Given the answer, it seems I was being overly pessimistic/skeptical. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Dec 13 '17 at 18:02
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The symbol ␢ has a unicode representation: 2422-unicode-blank-symbol.

It is an old typographic symbol for specifying explicit blanks in code. As Wikipedia states:

This was used in the early years of computer programming when writing on coding forms. Keypunch operators immediately recognized the symbol as an 'explicit space'.

ps. I also learned this symbol as Turing tape blank. I will check an old book later. Nowadays I would use B or if I am feeling adventurous ␣ 'open box' (U+2423) $\text{\textvisiblespace}$.

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  • $\begingroup$ So this question is offtopic? $\endgroup$ – Raphael Dec 13 '17 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael We have had questions on origins of notation before. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Jan Dec 13 '17 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Notation, sure. Programming syntax, borderline. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Dec 14 '17 at 6:51

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