Return to ¤ (thing)

Designing a [character set] is not just an exercise in [linguistics] and [typography], sometimes [politics] gets into play as well. The most notorious example of this is the [international] (aka [generic]) [currency] [symbol] ¤.

Staging: The year is [1972] and both the [Cold War] and the [Computer] [Revolution] are well under way. The 7-bit [ASCII] [character set], more formally dubbed [ANSI X3.4] in [1968], is finally starting to supplant the dreaded [EBCDIC]... so much so, in fact, that the [International Standardization Organization] ([ISO]) wants to make it into the first [international] standardized [character set], under the name [ISO 646]. The reason you have never heard of this is that its woefully limited [repertoire] of characters was only enough for [Latin], [Swahili], [Hawaiian] and [American English], but never mind the details, the real problem blocking its adoption was its inherent [capitalist] bias:

The only currency symbol in the set was the [dollar sign] ([$]).
And surely the mighty [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics], acting in [socialist solidarity] with the other [communist] states of the world, could not be expected to tolerate such [insidious] [propaganda], now could they? But neither were the [Yank]s very keen on adding a [ruble] symbol. So with true diplomatic inventiveness, a [compromise] was hammered out:

The dollar sign would be replaced with a neutral [international] [currency] [symbol].
The slight snag here was that there was no such thing as an "international currency" and even less was there a symbol for it -- so one was invented! Alas, I haven't been able to find out exactly what "¤" is supposed to represent; some have theorized that it should look like an empty circle so you can draw something in it, but in most modern fonts the symbol has been reduced to a flyspeck resembling an [alien] in [Space Invaders].

[Mundane] considerations of [logic] aside, with this hurdle passed [ISO 646] became a roaring success adopted worldwide, with over 180 national variants introduced. A few countries substituted their own currency symbols on top of the international symbol, but most European countries preferred convenient [EDI] with American systems and used [ASCII]'s dollar! This was also the approach taken by the [8-bit] [ISO 8859-1] [character set] ([Latin-1]), but as a sop to the socialist block the ¤ sign was kept hanging in there, albeit moved into the high-ASCII block at [hex] A4, next to the new [¢], [£] and [¥] symbols. And so to this day, this entirely unused [legacy] symbol lives on, both in [Unicode] as U+00A4 CURRENCY SYMBOL and in HTML as ¤.

But the [capitalist]s eventually had their revenge. In [1991], soon after the fall of the [Berlin Wall], [ISO 646] was revised to officially make it equivalent to [ISO 646-US] ([ASCII]) and eliminate the ¤ sign. To complete this revision of history, in [1999] [ISO] approved [ISO 8859-15], whose primary change is to place a real international currency sign, the [euro] ([€]), on top of the artificial, non-existent one.