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.

  • $\begingroup$ @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
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheIronCheek Given the answer, it seems I was being overly pessimistic/skeptical. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Dec 13 '17 at 18:02

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) $\text{\textvisiblespace}$.

  • $\begingroup$ 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

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.