Tonight’s Owl is brought to you by the wild, weird world of computer standards.
Back in the 1990s, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created the Universal Coded Character Set, better known as UTF-8, or Unicode. The character set includes every number and alphabetical character for just about every language. It also includes non-alphanumeric symbols (special characters) for every imaginable application, which any user can employ to display things on their computer display for various uses, including science, mathematics, engineering, and technology, among other cool stuff. In total, there are 144,697 different characters and symbols represented in Unicode.
The ISO Unicode standards replaced several other prior attempts at industry standardization. But before those pre-ISO frameworks were setup, chaos reigned. In the early days of computing, different manufacturers used whatever character set codes that they had developed for their own proprietary systems. That worked fine until people started trying to get different makes of computers to talk to each other, or read a text file created on one vendor’s machine on another vendor’s machine. This lack of standards caused beaucoup headaches for customers.
Anyway, getting back to the ISO standards, a netizen by the name of Jonathan Chan recently found a symbol in the Unicode character set that has no readily apparent meaning or use. The symbol is known as ‘Right Angle With Downwards Zigzag Arrow’, or Angzarr, and is defined as U+237C (which indicates Unicode, hexadecimal machine code 237C). Intrigued, Chan went to great lengths researching what it might mean, and how it got into the Unicode standard. After a very impressive search for answers, he basically determined that no one knows what it means or who originally asked for it to be included in the special character sets. Some suggestions of what it could symbolize include an electrical ‘short’ (as in short-circuit). In mathematics it represents a logical contradiction, or indicates a graph that continues below the x-axis. To me, it looks like it belongs in a building diagram to indicate where a grounding rod is located. Ultimately, it can be used by anyone to represent whatever they want it to stand for.
Angzarr can be written in HTML like this:
Depending on the font in use on the user’s computer, the angzarr symbol will look similar to the picture at the top of this post.