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Announcement: Historical Encoding & Formatting Inventions

See also contemporary Text Encoding (Markup)

History of the GUI

“Today, almost everybody in the developed world interacts with personal computers in some form or another. We use them at home and at work, for entertainment, information, and as tools to leverage our knowledge and intelligence. It is pretty much assumed whenever anyone sits down to use a personal computer that it will operate with a graphical user interface. We expect to interact with it primarily using a mouse, launch programs by clicking on icons, and manipulate various windows on the screen using graphical controls. But this was not always the case. Why did computers come to adopt the GUI as their primary mode of interaction, and how did the GUI evolve to be the way it is today?” (by Jeremy Reimer from ArsTechnica)

Starter Links: Reimer’s Article | History of the Gui at Wikipedia

History of the Button

“The idea: The button is interesting. It has a history, an evolution. It began as a simple on/off device and has become a central part of our human culture. We reach out to manipulate objects. We push buttons and magic things happen. At first, the light goes on. The light goes off. But now, we find our friends and family. We order and ship presents. We launch bombs. The button is the center of our power. This blog/resource/concept is to explore and record the history of the button. That’s all.” (from the History of the Button)

Starter Links: History of the Button

The @ Sign

Typographical character frequently used and put to novel uses in the online environment.

“The @ symbol has been a central part of the Internet and its forerunners ever since it was chosen to be a separator in e-mail addresses by Ray Tomlinson in 1972. From puzzled comments which surface from time to time in various newsgroups, it appears the biggest problem for many Net users is deciding what to call it. This is perhaps unsurprising, as outside the narrow limits of bookkeeping, invoicing and related areas few people use it regularly. Even fewer ever have to find a name for it, so it’s noted mentally as something like ‘that letter a with the curly line round it.’â€? (from World Wide Words)

In addition to its functions in the online realm, the “@â€? symbol is increasingly commonly used to render gendered words, usually of Spanish origin, gender-neutral. For example, in referencing a population of Latinos and Latinas, typists can record Latin@s to include both men and women, without using the default of the male-specific suffix.

Starter Links: World Wide Words


“The name derives from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof first published the Unua Libro in 1887. Zamenhof’s goal was to create an easy and flexible language as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding. Although no country has adopted the language officially, it has enjoyed continuous usage by a community estimated at between 100,000 and 2 million speakers. It is estimated that there are more than a thousand native speakers. Today, Esperanto is employed in world travel, correspondence, cultural exchange, conventions, literature, language instruction, television (Internacia Televido) and radio broadcasting. Some state education systems offer elective courses in Esperanto; there is evidence that learning Esperanto is a useful preparation for later language learning.” (from Esperanto on Wikipedia)

Starter Links: Esperanto League for N. America | Esperanto.net


Rubrication from the age of manuscripts to that of digital search “highlighting”:

[under construction]

Starter Links or References:


The invention of word spacing and punctuation:

”... the earliest hieroglyphic and alphabetic inscriptions had no punctuation symbols at all. No commas to indicate pauses and no periods between sentences. In fact, there weren’t even spaces between words. Nor did the early Greek and Roman writers use any form of punctuation. Knowing exactly how to read the words, where to put the intonations, pauses, etc., was an art, and one that required practice…. The use of spaces ( ) for interword separation didn’t appear until much later, roughly 600-800 AD. By the seventh century, the convention was quite common. In some early medieval manuscripts, two vertically aligned dots represented a full stop at the end of a sentence. Eventually one of the dots was dropped, and the remaining dot served as a period, colon or comma, depending on whether it was aligned with the top, middle, or base of the lowercase letters.” (from “History of Punctuation,” Complete Translation Services, Inc.)

Starter Links or References: Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading (New York: Viking, 1996): 47-50 | Complete Translation Services, Inc. article on “History of Punctuation”(article on site)

The Alphabet

The historically unique invention of the phonetic alphabet and its later evolution:

[under construction]

Starter Links or References: