Aug 09, 2016

> "It was initially designed for telecommunications, having spawned from telegraph code so it’s a bit odd that such an old idea would be incorporated in computers"

I don't think ASCII was designed for telecommunications. I think it was designed as a data processing standard from the beginning. Here's a quote from a 1960 CACM article, concerning X3.2 committee which developed ASCII, from http://www.ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/SurveyCodedCharacterRepre... :

> Technical Committee 97 of the International Standards Organization (ISO) is concerned with standards in data processing. The American Standards Association holds the secretariat of this committee. Sectional Committee X3 of A.S.A. is responsible for national data processing standards in the U.S.A. ...

> The primary aims in publishing this chart are: l) To indicate to the information processing industry why standardization is vital in this area. ...

Eric Fischer, who is an HN reader, wrote this paper on the development of ASCII, at http://trafficways.org/ascii/ascii.pdf :

> These codes were used for decades before the appearance of computers and the changing needs of communications required the design and standardization of a new code. ...

Page 11 show how computers were the impetus behind ASCII: "communications equipment would otherwise invariably use a version of International Telegraph Alphabet No. 2, while computer makers would not even consider using it because of the nonsensical order of its characters when sorted by their binary codes (Figure 29)."

It's hard to read through Fischer's paper and conclude that ASCII "was initially designed for telecommunications".

> "have fallen into the same trap that quite a number of American computer scientists fell into"

The ASCII designers were well aware of the needs of non-American use. Page 24 of Fischer's paper shows the input from German, Portuguese, and Russian speakers as ASCII became an ISO standard - the I being "International". Elsewhere shows input from other still other countries.

Mar 06, 2016

> "The symbol’s modern obscurity ended in 1971"

It's missing a step or two. How did it get into ASCII if it were obscure? Model 33 teletype, after all, was one of the first machines to use ASCII, so there must be a reason why Tomlinson could look down and see the key in the first place.

A quick check of typewriter keyboards from the 1950s (eg http://mytypewriter.com/smith-coronaelectraportablec1958.asp... ) shows that @, ¢, ½, and ¼ were all common in that era, so it isn't like other options weren't available.

And we know from http://trafficways.org/ascii/ascii.pdf , which was recently posted here on HN, that:

> The September 14-15, 1961 meeting of X3.2 saw further revisions of the printing characters of the code and the most elaborate plans so far for the arrangement of the control characters. The angular tilde (), multiplication sign (×), and vertical line (|) were deleted and replaced by an at sign (@) and less-than-or-equal-to (≤) and greater-than-or-equal-to (≥) operators.

On page 22 it does say that '@' was the "softest" of characters, and "more readily subject to replacement" and on page 23 quotes Mackenzie "it was forecast that, in the French national variant of the ISO 7-Bit Code, @ would be replaced by à", for why the "@" was placed before "A".

But that doesn't explain why an otherwise "obscure" characters is prominent enough to include over other possibilities, like ±, √, or ° from figure 35.

Going back to the Smithsonian article:

> "Tomlinson chose @—“probably saving it from going the way of the ‘cent’ sign on computer keyboards,”"

Cent wasn't in ASCII. ASCII was standard by 1971. There's no way '@' would have been removed from ASCII, and I don't see why it would have been removed from the keyboard had, say, '#' been used for email instead of '@'.

Feb 21, 2016

I can understand why a publishing house would find the DOI to be useful. I can understand why a publishing house would want to encourage people to use a DOI.

I do not understand why there are rules against citing DOI-less content, as that would seem to place the needs of the publishing house far above the needs for good scholarship.

Elsewhere in this discussion I gave an example of a citation without a DOI from http://trafficways.org/ascii/ascii.pdf :

> Thomas E. Kurtz, letter to Secretary, X3, December 21, 1965, Calvin N. Mooers Papers (CBI 81), Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, box 20, folder 1.

That paper has dozens of DOI-less references, like meeting minutes and memos, which are stored in archives like the CBI or the Smithsonian.

How does a paper like that get published in a journal which has rules against citing DOI-less content?

Feb 20, 2016

> The injunction against citing DOI-less documents is unfortunate, because people deserve to get credit for the interesting things they say–and it turns out that they have, on rare occasion, been known to say interesting things in formats other than the traditional peer-reviewed journal article.

Ain't that the truth. There's a paper that came out a few years ago which said that new method B is 3x faster than old method A. That's well and good. But there were two widely-used free software projects which had done the same thing, blogged about it, and for one case had the old code still available as a #define option. While the published article was based on a proprietary in-house package.

I pointed the two previous reports to one of the authors, who had heard of one, but because it wasn't an academic paper, it wasn't worth citing. Grr! Because free software developers really have the time and money to write a paper for the $1,000 per pop open access journal in the field.

I've been reading old literature, from the 1980s and older. There used to be a "Letters to the Editor" section, which was sometimes used to point out or correct these sorts of issues. No more. That same open access journal says my only options are to write a comment on their comments section (which unlike an old Letter to the Editor, no one reads, which is not indexed, and is not citable), or submit an entirely new article, at $1,000.

The other thing a requirement for a DOI does it prevent citing the older literature, which doesn't always have a DOI.

> [Quoting Neuron's author guidelines] "References should include only articles that are published or in press. For references to in press articles, please confirm with the cited journal that the article is in fact accepted and in press and include a DOI number and online publication date. Unpublished data, submitted manuscripts, abstracts, and personal communications should be cited within the text only."

This would make certain publications impossible. For example, in my historical research, I tracked down the paper "Ciphering Structural Formulas – the Zatopleg System", Zator Technical Bulletin No. 59 (1951). This was cited by many chemical information papers in the 1950s and 1960s, and in some patents. However, the only copy I could find was in the Mooers archive at the Charles Babbage Institute. (Mooers founded Zator.) The archive controls the copyright, and lets people make copies for research purposes, so long as the archive/box/folder information is included in the citation.

Which is why if you look at a paper like http://trafficways.org/ascii/ascii.pdf it has citations like:

> Thomas E. Kurtz, letter to Secretary, X3, December 21, 1965, Calvin N. Mooers Papers (CBI 81), Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, box 20, folder 1.

Try doing that "within the text only".

Feb 13, 2016

The one I wrote is http://trafficways.org/ascii/ascii.pdf