nav search
Data Centre Software Security DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes
BOFH
Lectures

back to article
Sysadmin sank IBM mainframe by going one VM too deep

Dwarf
Silver badge

But you could issue commands to the VM hypervisor by prefixing your input with a special character, the default being a hashtag #.

Its not a hashtag, its a hash. A hash was around well before someone added bit to it for some social media platform.

Incidentally, since we call it a hash in the UK, but the Americans call it a pound and the social media companies are US based, why don't they call it a poundtag ?

frank ly
Silver badge

On my UK keyboard, I have a pound symbol (Shift+3=£) , a dollar symbol (Shift+4=$) and a hash key (#). What does a US keyboard have? What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

because hashland would sound silly.

Gene Cash
Silver badge

My US keyboard "has" a pound sign, as Shift-3 is #, but Shift-4 is still $, and we don't have a "£" key, so I had to copy-paste it from your post.

We do call £ "pound" and this weekend I had to tell someone about the pound/shilling/pence system, as he was wondering about the "weird 3 part prices" in his vintage catalog.

Also, my uni statistics teacher insisted it was called "octothorpe" as it had eight pointy-bits, and he was extremely pedantic. He's the only one to ever use that term.

Woza
Headmaster

I must admit to having used "octothorpe" in user manuals - he's got company!

jake
Silver badge

Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

... 1975's arrival of ken at Berkeley brought with it the rather wide-spread use of the word "octothorpe" for the # symbol. This spread pretty much everywhere Berkeley un*x did over the next couple decades.

Note that the British term "hash" is also a product of the 1970s, while the Yank term "pound" goes back into the mid-1800s ... and is probably derived from the Roman symbol for libra pondo, ℔.

"hashtag" is a johnney-come-lately, invented by kids who weren't interested in history ... or seemingly that the thing they thought they were inventing had already existed for a couple decades.

Wensleydale Cheese
Silver badge

"Also, my uni statistics teacher insisted it was called "octothorpe" as it had eight pointy-bits, and he was extremely pedantic. He's the only one to ever use that term."

I've come across "octothorpe" in the world of fonts.

hplasm
Silver badge
Coat

"...hashland would sound silly."

And hashworld would go bust...

Dave 126
Silver badge

Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

I've just been listening to a podcast about the # octothorpe / pound sign / hash / chess checkmate symbol / Swedish cartography symbol for a lumber yard:

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/octothorpe/

And yeah, it has the same Latin root as Pound before its meaning bifurcated. We Brits call it hash, US the pound sign. It survived into the computer age because it was found on typewriters.

When touch tone phones were developed by Bell Labs, they realised that a couple of symbols in addition to 0 - 9 would be useful, and their management wanted new, abstract symbols. However the case was made that touch tone phones might interact with computerised menu systems, so symbols already found on keyboards would be better. It is from then that the term Octothorpe was coined by engineers because that's how their sense of humour works.

Dave 126
Silver badge

Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

And as a counterpoint to the Octothorpe which survived because it was on typewriters, here's the history of a punctiob mark that whilst recognised by Webster's hasn't been widely adopted. The interrobang, a cross between a question mark and an exclamation mark. Curiously, it was offered by Corona typewriters as an optional upgrade.

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/interrobang/

Missing Semicolon
Silver badge
Devil

"the default being a hashtag #."

I didn't know Amber Rudd wrote for El Reg?

Deimos

Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

Interrobang would be used at the end of the sentence

“You shut down the what “.

Doctor Syntax
Silver badge

"He's the only one to ever use that term."

Octothorpe was coined by AT&T who invented the symbol so I wouldn't be surprised if they use it sometimes. Why leftpondians call it a pound sign is just an indication of their strangeness.

Sam Liddicott

At one point British Telecom called # "gate" much to the bafflement of every single one of their customers.

anothercynic
Silver badge

About hashes, pounds and hashtags...

I agree with Dwarf here... it's not a hashtag. A hashtag by definition is a word *prefaced* by the hash/pound sign, #. Don't be mixin' your terminology here, you hear?

Easiest way to distinguish between the English pound (£) and the American pound (#) is to call the one the Sterling sign (which the £ is after all... the Pound Sterling, thank you very much!)

Much easier than 'octothorpe' ;-)

Amos1

"Incidentally, since we call it a hash in the UK, but the Americans call it a pound and the social media companies are US based, why don't they call it a poundtag ?"

I was wondering why it's not called a dollartag in the U.K.

Similar to how we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway.

VinceH
Silver badge

"because hashland would sound silly."

Not really - it sounds like an ideal name for the go to shop for a certain recreational substance.

nowster

Except when they called it "square" in their System X voice prompts.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

> And hashworld would go bust...

Not in Oregon it wouldn't.

Nick Kew
Silver badge

@Sam Liddicott

Would that be when # was the standard prefix to get an external line from an office network?

DropBear
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: @Sam Liddicott

Seeing as how "#" looks like "not equal" only twice as much, the party hereby decrees that it was always called "doubleplusunequal".

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Also hekje

In the Netherlands called a "hekje", a little gate.

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

That's interesting. I never thought about the roots of the words (although there is something similar about pound weight and lb as a symbol).

I always assumed it was because in the early days of terminal, the US 7-bit ASCII table only had space for 96 characters, and were filled with characters suitable for US data processing. This did not include currency symbols for other geographies.

For many terminals and printers intended for use in the UK, there was a toggle or DIP switch, or sometimes a menu setting that normally replaced the # symbol with a £ symbol (although some replaced $ with £). Same numeric code, different presentation. This is what I thought was the basis for hash/pound.

I remember writing shell scripts with comments that appeared with the £ symbol at the front. In hindsight, it must have looked very strange, but at the time, it was just normal.

When 8-bit ascii with extended character sets started being used, life was a nightmare, because the number of different code-pages (CP437 and ISO8859-1 and -15 anybody) proliferated, with different code pages on different devices, making inter-operabillity extremely difficult.

I don't know how other OS's dealt with this, but IBM came up with quite complicated input and output methods on AIX for most devices that allowed you to specify a translation table that could be used to make it all work, but setting these up was quite complicated, and not many customers actually used them correctly (or in some cases, at all!)

It was only the adoption of various Unicode UTF character encoding schemes that things started working a little easier.

John Brown (no body)
Silver badge

"At one point British Telecom called # "gate" much to the bafflement of every single one of their customers."

I once heard someone refer to an exclamation mark as pling, which confused me somewhat!

John G Imrie
Silver badge
Happy

Re: hashland

Nothing wrong with hashland, it's where I get some of my best ... er ideas from

Martin an gof
Silver badge

Surprised no-one's mentioned "sharp" yet, as in the musical symbol which is almost - but not quite - the same shape.

I, too, always assumed that #="pound" was just one of those things because US and UK keyboards differed, but if it might have been "gate" then maybe pound could be because it looks a bit like a fenced-off area :-)

"Pling" was common in the 1980s ISTR. I think I first came across it when Acorn-types needed a quicker way to pronounce the indirection operator ("?" was used for bytes, "!" for 16 bits IIRC) and started using "query" for "question mark".

Also, going back to the Bell thing, the 10+2 telephone keypad was actually a subset of the DTMF thing, I think. DTMF had (as the name implies) two tones. Each tone had four frequencies for a total number of combinations of 16. 12 (3x4) were used in the telephone keypad and the other four (ABCD?) did "other things" if you could generate them...

Just vague memories, quite possible entirely wrong :-)

M.

IHateWearingATie
Thumb Down

And their old conference call system - confused me no end the first time I used it

"Enter your conference code and press square". WTF?

Martin an gof
Silver badge

square

Actually, come to think of it, I think there's an ancient telephone in the attic which has "#" printed on the key in such a way that it does look like a square at first glance - it's not canted across, and the "sticky-out-bits" are very, very short.

M.

MonkeyCee
Silver badge

pound

"What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?"

I assume when they see it, a pound. Or a funny L :)

Generally it only exists on UK keyboards.

/dev/null

Octothorpe / pound sign / hash / chess checkmate symbol etc etc...

Not to mention "medical shorthand symbol for a fracture".

Anonymous South African Coward
Silver badge

Re: Also hekje

It was used in "The Hobbit" on the 48k Speccy as a window in the goblins/elves dungeon :)

Roger Kynaston

Re: "the default being a hashtag #."

>I didn't know Amber Rudd wrote for El Reg?

But she would understand it all even less than she does if that is possible. "Someone needs to get control of the octothorpes!"

tim 13

Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

My sister keeps using interrobangs on Facebook

DrAJS

I guy I used to work with referred to the "_" symbol as an underbar.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

they need to open a branch here all we can get now is weed.

SgtFalstaff

#2 Pencil?

Am I the only one who remembers it being the 'number' sign?

It was only after we get a push button phone did I hear the term 'pound' sign.

This post has been deleted by its author

keith_w

Re: @Sam Liddicott

in mathematics, it's the symbol for Equal but Parallel

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

'What do US people call a real pound (currency) symbol?'

they call it a squiglyfibbles.

</blackadder-prince-george-quote>

The Oncoming Scorn
FAIL

Its also known as the pound or sometimes the number key on phone systems in Canada.

LenG

Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

The £ is actually a fancied up L, from the Latin. Pre-decimal pennies were denoted by "d" (for denarii). The middle item, shillings, was postfixed s (solidi) and the currency was frequently referred to as Lsd.

We should have stuck with it. It was really fun to watch foreigners struggle. Maybe we can switch back after brexit.

<computer angle> - early computers had such a hard time handling 3-element mixed base currency (12 pence to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound) that they often had hard-wired pound-shilling-pence conversion units. I believe those could also handle halfpennies and fathings (quarter=pennies).

Tim99
Silver badge

Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

@jake

I was told nearly 60 years ago at school, that the confusion with the pound weight (lb) and the pound currency (£) may be because they go back to a similar ancient derivations. The old Roman pound ("libra" roughly about 11-12 ounces) and the Saxon coinage of the old penny, a silver coin - 240 of which were made from a pound weight of silver. The shilling (derived from the Roman solidus gold coin weighing 1/72 of a pound) was equivalent to 12 silver pennies. There were 20 shillings in the £ so 12x20=240 is easily divided by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 20, 24, 30, 40, 48, 60, etc. The penny was divided into smaller coins: 2 ha’pennies (half pennys) and 4 farthings (“fourth things”) so there were 960 of the smallest coins to the £ allowing a wide range of quantities to be costed.

Incidentally that is why small/inexpensive things were sold by the dozen (12) because 12 items at, say, 3 pennies each would cost 3 shillings, and as 12 is also easily divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6. The seller and the buyer would know that 12 inexpensive items at a farthing each would be 3 pennies etc...

Guy Geens

Re: Also hekje

Also, in Belgium: "spoorwegteken" - railway sign (try typing a row of them). Admitted, it's been a very long time since I heard that one.

kain preacher
Silver badge

Octothorpe was coined by AT&T who invented the symbol so I wouldn't be surprised if they use it sometimes. Why leftpondians call it a pound sign is just an indication of their strangeness

It is believed that the symbol traces its origins to the symbol ℔, an abbreviation of the Roman term libra pondo, which translates as "pound weight"

Coined yes, invented um no # was around for some time

Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese
Silver badge

Surprised no-one's mentioned "sharp" yet, as in the musical symbol which is almost - but not quite - the same shape.

Indeed.

I'm reminded of the TV advert from the 1970's for Harp lager "Harp stays sharp to the bottom of the glass" which wrote the name as #arp

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

"and the currency was frequently referred to as Lsd."

<JOKE>

So you Brits were running your economy off of LSD for years? That explains a bit...

</JOKE>

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Just to mudddy the waters a trifle ...

> Incidentally that is why small/inexpensive things were sold by the dozen

And thus the reason why in the UK eggs are sold in multiples of 6 all the way up to the 12x12 wholesale trays.

Although I think I heard somewhere that the Brussels overlords wanted to start forcing UK farmers to print the weight on each box, as the concept of selling things by unit quantity was beyond the comprehension of the bureaucrats.

DougMac

"Incidentally, since we call it a hash in the UK, but the Americans call it a pound.."

That usage in the US has gone away decades ago. It was current when typewriters were a thing and was used then, but since computers came around, nobody abbreviates pound as #.

Jude Bradley

and you could clean toilets with it, hence the name "Harpic".

DJ Smiley

Re: "...hashland would sound silly."

I'm just trying to figure out what poundbrowns would taste like....

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing