John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · Thursday 5 February 2004
The Plot to Disappear the Cents Sign
If you are young you may not believe this. In fact if you are old you may not believe it either. There used to be a key on every typewriter that let you type the cents sign. The cents sign was used like the dollar sign except for amounts less than one dollar. For example, a phone call used to cost 5 cents ("your nickel") and was written like this:


Then with inflation it became "drop a dime" and so on until now there are no more cents. Along with the ever-decreasing value of the dollar there has been an utterly mean-spirited plot to destroy even the vestiges of the former economy in which the cents sign was used. I know this because yesterday I went to type the cents sign for this column and to my horror I realized there was no cents sign on the keyboard.

I searched around everywhere but it was gone. There was no cents sign. (This is where the nice men come and tell me that I was imagining the cents sign). Have you seen those Soviet era photographs where they get published the next year and one of the persons in the photograph is missing? This is just like that. They have disappeared the cents sign.

I went to my electric typewriter and sure enough no cents sign there either. Maybe I really was imagining it. The only thing is that when I was a young man I trained as a typist and I distinctly remember having to be able to touch type the cents sign. The typing tests would have these sentences with lots of numbers and amounts of money including the cents sign. To prove it I went down into my basement and dug up an old manual Underwood typewriter. Ah ha! There it was, the cents sign. This is what the keyboard looks like on that typewriter:

    2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   0   -   =
   Q  W   E   R   T   Y   U   I   O   P   ½
    A  S   D   F   G   H   J   K   L   ;   ¢
     Z  X   C   V   B   N   M   ,   .   /
It is right next to the semi-colon. It was not even shifted thus showing its greater importance than the dollar sign. No more, it has been liquidated by the apparatchiks of inflation. The only evidence left of the cents sign is my fading memory and the Underwood in my basement (good thing I save everything or people would be calling me crazy).

Of course, now I am obstacle to the new order. No doubt they will send a truck for me in the middle of the night. I can just imagine the detention order: "Physical Item (2a) manual typewriter, type Underwood Lettera 22, may be located in subject's basement. Imperative that item 2a be located and removed along with subject."

Don't laugh. Today it's the cents sign and tomorrow it's trucks in the night.

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