back to article Go to L: A man of the cloth faces keyboard conundrum

We round out the week with a spiritual On Call from a reader who was on the receiving end of a higher calling. By phone. Our tale takes us to the 1980s, when computer users had to give their hardware the correct time and date on startup – no internet time synchronisation services here. "Martin", for that was certainly not his …

  1. John Sturdy
    Angel

    An excellent contact page

    I saw an early version of the web site of the Carthusian Order, who are strictly silent.

    Their contact page said that their webmaster would be happy to accept emailed prayer requests and reports of broken links, "but please understand that it is not in the nature of our vocation to reply".

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: accept emailed prayer requests

      MIME encoded?

      1. John Sturdy
        Coat

        Re: accept emailed prayer requests

        I think that's more associated with the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monastic_sign_languages

        ;-)

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: An excellent contact page

      "...it is not in the nature of our vocation to reply"

      No, that's usually left to a Higher Authority.

      // devil icon, but no angel icon?

      // Holy Bible in the pocket...

      1. Zarno Bronze badge
        Devil

        Re: An excellent contact page

        "// devil icon, but no angel icon?"

        That's not a devil, that's a Daemon.

        Sticking to that story. :)

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: An excellent contact page

      So that's where Apple got the idea.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: An excellent contact page

        The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

  2. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
    Angel

    Very different clerical experience

    I was doing desktop support in a University on the edge of the City of London early in my career. The Pastor was vicar at one of the Wren churches and approached my boss with a problem with viruses. I was duly despatched with a floppy disk version of McAfee.

    The Vicar was using language that was a good way from the divine about some minion who thought they knew things. Anyway, I managed to disinfect it but my hopes of developing a side hustle with the Wren churches never came to anything.

    --> closest to a halo.

  3. jake Silver badge

    So in other words ...

    ... the Priest had been told by his typing teacher to go to 'ell?

  4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

    He'd obviously learned to type on a very old school typewriter. I remember my dear old mum (lifelong secretary) talking about how when she first started work there were still quite a few old manual typewriters around that didn't include keys for 1 or 0 - you were expected to use a lower-case L or upper-case O.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      I had a portable typewriter for a very short (i.e. within the Argos returns period) while that was like that. It went back in favour of one with a "proper" keyboard.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I don't remember ever using a typewriter that economical but I've certainly encountered the O/0 situation.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "but I've certainly encountered the O/0 situation."

        Yeah, same here, not helped by O and 0 being right next to each other on most keyboards.

        1. Anonymous Tribble

          0_o

          I worked with a database in the early 1990s which had a lot of names with double Os typed as "o0", like "Go0d", for example.

          All I can think is that one of the people entering the data wasn't very good at typing, located the "o" and pressed it, then looked for "o" again and couldn't see it because their finger was still on it. So they pressed the "0" because they couldn't tell the difference.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: 0_o

            Some keyboards had 00 and 000 keys.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 0_o

              You mean hundreds and thousands on the keyboard? Yeah - mine too after a Krispy Kreme Strawberry Sprinkle!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 0_o

            I've noticed that when my fingernails start getting too long, I start accidentally hitting the key above the one I want while hitting the one I want. 0 is just above O. "Fashionably-long" fingernailed typist, perhaps?

            And yes, that's how I, as a guy, know when it's time to trim my nails...

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        We found the O/0 mistakes in satellite orbital elements of all things, must have been manually re-typed from printouts or something in the 80s. So our parsing code had to do a bit of fixing-up occasionally...

    3. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

      I have a 1951-1954 [1] Remington-Rand Super-Riter on a stand next to me.

      It has a zero (0) key but not a one (1) so the story really hit true!

      It also has a lot more mix-up with punctuation compared to a "standard" computer keyboard, of which I've used since the mid-'80s, but to make up for that it has a cent sign and both 1/2 and 1/4 fractions.

      (I'd say more about the typewriter itself but no one wants to hear about it, surely.)

      1. I've tried placing the year comparing to other folks photos and serial numbers online. Mine has a single-key Keyboard Margin Control. Earlier versions had two and later had none (patent dispute). This range is the best I can do.

      1. jonathan keith Silver badge

        Tom Hanks could probably help you out with that.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        but to make up for that it has a cent sign and both 1/2 and 1/4 fractions.

        Directly from my laptop keyboard: ¼, ½ & ¾.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One of the guys here once worked with an old school storeman who never really got the hang of this new fangled 'data entry' and failed to understand that 0/o and 1/l are different, despite being told repeatedly

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        To be fair I'm finding various issues like this crop up even with younger users whenever scripting and/or databases crop up. The problem these days is Unicode and "smart" software that changes what is entered.

        Is a "-" a hyphen, minus sign, en or em dash? Never an issue in ASCII but they're all different in Unicode.

        Is "A" an capital Latin A or an uppercase Greek alpha? They look identical in any font but they don't get treated equally by software.

        1. swm Silver badge

          'Is "A" an capital Latin A or an uppercase Greek alpha? They look identical in any font but they don't get treated equally by software.'

          In latex they are identical.

          1. Stanislav Bonita

            Yeah, that's acutally not a good thing.

          2. Montreal Sean
            Gimp

            "In latex they are identical"

            swm,

            I wouldn't know, my kink doesn't include latex covered letters.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "In latex they are identical"

              "my kink doesn't include latex covered letters."

              Not even French ones, as, when and where applicable?

          3. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

            Wonderful unicode

            I have read in a couple of places now that proper handling of upper and lower case in all the alphabets supported by unicode is non-trivial, in terms of the lookup tables and code to support it. My latest encounter was SQLite, where the FAQ said that implementing case-insensitve searches on Unicode text would double the SQLite code base, due to all the arcane alphabet-specific rules. Previous to that, the Lua developers said exactly the same thing. SQLite and Lua accept UTF-8 encoded text, but leave it to specialist libraries to actually process it. Since I have a fondness for light and tight applications and libraries, I think that attitude is entirely ptoper.

            1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

              Re: Wonderful unicode

              True enough. For example, in English we’re used to “i” being the lower case form of “I”. But in Turkish and Azeri, “i” and “ı” are different vowels with different sounds; “i” is the lower case form of “İ” (a “dotted I”), and “ı” (a “dotless i”) is the lower case form of “I”.

              Another example is how to capitalize German „ß“: should it be „SS“, or „SZ“, or „ẞ“? (The answer is “it depends”.) Similarly, the lower case form of „SS“ is sometimes „ss“ and sometimes „ß“. Those arcane rules tend to be locale-specific rather than alphabet-specific, since e.g. Swiss German doesn’t use „ß“.

            2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: Wonderful unicode

              I'm not familiar with SQLite but that sounds like indexing of text data must be pretty difficult...?

        2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          The problem these days is Unicode and “smart” software that changes what is entered.

          The former, not so much; the latter, quite possibly.

          Is a “-” a hyphen, minus sign, en or em dash? Never an issue in ASCII but they’re all different in Unicode.

          ASCII only has a combination “hyphen-minus” character, which makes a poor dash of any length. Most proportional fonts use lines of different widths for hyphen (‐, U+2010), minus sign (−, U+2212), en dash (–, U+2013), and em dash (—, U+2014) [never mind the two-em dash (U+2E3A) and three-em dash (U+2E3B), which are still missing from most fonts], so with proportional fonts the usual challenge is relying on sight alone to distinguish between the ASCII hyphen-minus (-, U+002D) and the Unicode hyphen (‐, U+2010).

          If “smart” software is automatically changing e.g. ASCII hyphen-minus characters in scripts or database schemas to Unicode hyphen characters, then perhaps that software isn’t the right choice for working with scripts or database schemas.

          Is “A” a capital Latin A or an uppercase Greek alpha? They look identical in any font […]

          Dont forget the Cyrillic А (U+0410) and the Cherokee Ꭺ (U+13AA, pronounced “go”). In a font that uses handwritten forms, the Cherokee Ꭺ would look nothing like the other three. I know of one font where none of them look identical — Unicode BMP Fallback SIL — although that feature is by design.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The problem these days is Unicode and “smart” software that changes what is entered.

            And don't get me started on "smart" software (Microsoft Office, I'm talking about you!) that replaces real ASCII single-quotes/apostrophes and double-quotes with "smart" quotes. Thus breaking any input being prepared for an ASCII-only system!

            I not only turned off that replacement in Office, but wrote a VBA script (ugh, VBA) that finds and replaces them with the correct ASCII characters. Otherwise they just show up as boxes in the other system.

    5. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Keys

      Just wish to recommend https://journoterrorist.com/2011/08/02/paperball2/ .

      At the time I got married, I had a manual typewriter. My wife had an IBM Selectric back then, so I think my old Royal or whatever it was went out to the curb. By now I don't remember typing ells for ones, but I guess I must have. (As you can tell by the reference to the Selectric, we have been married a while.)

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: Keys

        "As you can tell by the reference to the Selectric, we have been married a while."

        Lovely piece of engineering!

        1. Dave559 Silver badge

          Re: Keys

          "Lovely piece of engineering!"

          I'm sure the typewriter's probably not bad, too! ;-)

        2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

          Re: Keys

          Whenever I've dealt with anything engineered by IBM, I've always found the engineering excellent. The design and layout is sometimes a little odd though, but I think that was just IBM being IBM..

          I've never dealt with an IBM Mainframe, but I've used a few of their PCs, going back to the original IBM PC. In fact, I learned database management on an IBM PC (no XT or AT) running dBase II. I've also used various XTs, ATs and PS2s, as well as more modern equipment. I've always felt like any IBM computer I was using could probably survive well in a warzone, assuming there was power available..

    6. swm Silver badge

      The LGP-30 flexowriter had no "1" - you used "l"(L).

    7. MJB7

      What do you mean "very old"

      My Dad's portable typewriter was like that, and the big manual typewriter I got from a second hand shop (I think) was too. It wasn't till I got to Uni that I really started typing on teletype, card-punch, or VDU keyboards.

    8. HPCJohn

      My mother was a trained typist. Yes indeed with early computers she would use lower case L and letter O

      When I got a TRS-80 Model 1 for Christmas she set it up on a special shock absorbing typists mat. Then sat if front of it in the proper position, wrists cocked.

      She then proceeded to pound the hell out of it. You could actually see the case bend.

      Typists in those days were STRONG.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        My mother did that with a PC, right up into the point of learning that there's a Ctrl key where Shift is supposed to be, and Ctrl-A is a rather unfriendly action if followed by another keypress.

        I had to talk her out of attempting to throw the keyboard through the window. Later 'resolved' the issue by a little hardware mod (read: small piece of paper) that disabled the contacts of the Ctrl key. Thankfully it was an old keyboard, so had a sort of rubber widget that pressed on metal strips on the circuit board. It wasn't one of those membrane monstrosities.

        But, yeah, I'm surprised the keyboard survived. It took a lot of force to operate manual typewriters, especially things like upright Remingtons (which were even antiques in her days of typing).

        1. jake Silver badge

          "there's a Ctrl key where Shift is supposed to be"

          That's why the fine art of keybr0ad re-mapping was in high demand back in the '80s. Some of us still do it, rather than settle for the crap key placement that marketing seems to think works best for computers. Not that today's point & drool users would care about that one way or the other.

          My two favorite typewriters are an ancient Royal and a modern Smith Corona Portable from the '50s (with enhancements that helped my Father get his engineering degrees, and me my first one)..

    9. David Woodhead
      Thumb Up

      Thank you Mum

      He'd obviously learned to type on a very old school typewriter. I remember my dear old mum (lifelong secretary) talking about how when she first started work there were still quite a few old manual typewriters around that didn't include keys for 1 or 0 - you were expected to use a lower-case L or upper-case O.

      Yes indeedy - I owned an entry level Smith-Corona in the 1960s which had this very 'feature', bought for me by my loving parents to speed up my homework. And I taught myself to touch-type on it - not perfectly, but enough to have been of significant benefit to me over the course of the next 50+ years compared with my fellow one-finger software developers. Thank you, Mum and Dad.

  5. David Robinson 1

    Font recommendations

    And I don't mean the ones used for baptisms. Which monospaced fonts have you found offer the clearest distinction between lower 'el', upper 'eye' and number '1' and upper 'oh' and number '0'? And also look good at a range of sizes? Lucida Console (Windows) and Liberation Mono (Linux) are my go-tos, just wondering what else is out there.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Font recommendations

      I like Go Mono. It's as good eye candy as I've ever seen in a mono font too. (I'm not any sort of a font geek, but not a fan of stripping the letters down to their minimum representation either.)

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Font recommendations

        Go Mono is a pleasant looking font, but the 1 and lower case "el" characters are identical, so not really suitable as an answer to the O.P.'s request

        1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

          Re: Font recommendations

          Not on my computer they're not. Did you look at that link?

          1. MiguelC Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Font recommendations

            Went back to check... the problem was self brought: with NoScript active the font is not properly rendered. Allowing scripts from fontlibrary.org changed it quite sensationally :)

    2. Bit Brain

      Re: Font recommendations

      I've always been a fan of Bitstream Vera Sans Mono.

      https://www.dafont.com/bitstream-vera-mono.font

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: Font recommendations

        The DejaVu font families are more recent descendants of the Bitstream Vera fonts, and which have substantially better coverage of Unicode characters (the Bitstream Vera fonts really only covered basic Latin characters, which might not necessarily be a problem for some).

    3. Andy Non Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Font recommendations

      I always liked Comic Sans... I know, I know, I'll go around the back of the bit barn and shoot myself.

      1. RichardBarrell

        Re: Font recommendations

        You might perhaps wish to try Fantasque Sans Mono https://github.com/belluzj/fantasque-sans which is very pretty.

      2. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Font recommendations

        Take more than one bullet - just in case!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Font recommendations

        I've always wondered how much of the Comic Sans hate is from the font itself versus the name. If we called it "The Batman Font" would it get less hate? How about "Industrial Print House #5 Sans"?

        As fonts go, it's fairly readable. The fake hand-lettered look was one of the first attempts at softening up a harsh and mechanical look to documents. I don't love it, but I also don't get the hate.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Font recommendations

          I think the hate is more for the repeated unnecessary use of it. Replacing body text with a typeface that's designed for "fun" heading text is never a remotely good thing.

    4. PerlyKing Silver badge

      Re: Font recommendations

      I'm using "Hack" and "JetBrains Mono" in Linux, and "Consolas" in Windows.

      1. Rhyd

        Re: Font recommendations

        +1 for JetBrains Mono. I use it in Windows, it's free, and supports ligatures if you're brave.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Font recommendations

          Do ligatures make sense in a monospaced font?

          1. Stanislav Bonita

            Re: Font recommendations

            No.

          2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Font recommendations

            Ligatures always make sense...

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Font recommendations

              Always is a long time, pardner.

              -.. --- / -.-- --- ..- / ... .--. . .- -.- / -- --- .-. ... . ..--..

          3. Rhyd

            Re: Font recommendations

            Out of interest, why wouldn't it make sense?

    5. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

      Re: Font recommendations

      Arkpandora Aerial Mono is what I use because it has a very good distinction between all those similar letters.

    6. Sir Awesome

      Re: Font recommendations

      I recently discovered Inconsolata - even contains the dash through the 0!

      1. greenup

        Re: if it works...

        +1 for Inconsolata

        Inspired by Consolas, a font intended by Microsoft to replace Courier New.

        Inconsolata is free, available on Google fonts, and you can use it in web documents with about 2 lines of style, with or without downloading/hosting yourself, depending on your preference.

    7. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

      Re: Font recommendations

      On windows my preferred monospace font for looks is Monospac821 BT but best compromise for looks and also good 1/l and 0/O distinction is Consolas

    8. Dave559 Silver badge

      Re: Font recommendations

      Droid Sans Mono is quite nice, and if you want extra geek points, you can even have it in Droid Sans Mono Slashed or Droid Sans Mono Dotted variants to even more emphatically differentiate 0s from Os.

      Ubuntu Mono is also quite nice, and for obvious reasons, there are a fair number of other fonts in the Linux world that are both carefully designed for terminal use and whose licences allow them to be installed elsewhere as well.

      There is also a website which will let you download fonts for local use from the web fonts repo hosted by Google, which may make getting some fonts a little easier.

      (Aside: I find that setting my terminal font size to 9.5 pt generally works best for me these days; 9 pt is too small to read comfortably, and 10 pt makes my terminal windows just that bit too big to fit comfortably on the screen!)

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Font recommendations

        It's Bedstead or it's nothing.

    9. Potty Professor
      Devil

      Re: Font recommendations

      My name is Iain, but for some reason, most sales droids seem to think that the first character is a lower case L and ask for "Lain". I simply say "No-one here by that name" and hang up.

      1. Alligator

        Re: Font recommendations

        You've never been Lain?

        1. Potty Professor
          Unhappy

          Re: Font recommendations

          Yes, but not for many years now :-(

      2. Wassini

        Re: Font recommendations

        I thought that I was alone in the Lain space.

      3. Wassini
        Alien

        Re: Font recommendations

        I have put up with being called Lain for years. It only got worse when I moved westwards across the pond. Still, there is a crumb of comfort to find out that I'm not alone.

      4. IainT

        Re: Font recommendations

        I feel your pain.

    10. jonathan keith Silver badge

      Re: Font recommendations

      I'm rather partial to Anonymous Pro.

    11. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

      Re: Font recommendations

      I got so fed up with these ambiguities that I created my own fonts. I also did some hack work on an existing font that my colleague liked to use (Courier 10 pitch), to make the tilde more wiggly to distinguish it from hyphen-minus, and put what I call a "French nose" on the number one, to distinguish it from small-ell. I also made the curly brackets more curly, to distinguish them from parentheses.

      My font creation escapades started with a monospace bitmap font for a white-on-black X terminal. This was back in the days when X11 rendering of vector fonts on a terminal looked really crap, so only a bitmap would save the eyes from fuzziness. Hours of innocent artistic fun ensued. I did not complete anything more than the ASCII character set. Thank goodness I am an Englishman, and don't need all those fussy accents. My Polish friend at work explained how to write an ell-slash and a zed-dot, but I have forgotten already.

      Anyway, then I got onto proper vector fonts (Postscript). I attacked the usual technical legibility problems, and some artistic points too. What makes one font more easy to read than another? Why is bad letter spacing so annoying? Can I really do anything new, or is all the best stuff hundreds of years old? I don't know if my efforts were worthwhile. However, I know that if I truly succeeded in my aims, nobody would notice, because they see the content, not the presentation.

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Font recommendations

      ZX Spectrum?

      https://www.dafont.com/zx-spectrum.font

    13. dizwell

      Re: Font recommendations

      I always install, and use happily, Century Schoolbook Mono BT. I think I got into doing so after liking Solaris' default console text, though I don't know if it's an exact match. It's close enough for my purposes in Manjaro, though.

      I find it exceptionally clear on the difference between 1, i, I, L, l. It's trickier with capital O and 0, though, but not impossible to spot: I'd prefer a dot in the middle of my zeroes, I have to say...

  6. Gavin Burnett

    Computer: Please enter the current date.

    Priest types in MCMLXXXIV

    Computer: Invalid date!

    1. Dave Pickles

      I was going to suggest that the priest entered the name of the saint commemorated on that day, but as there is no saint for July 2nd, at least in the Anglican calendar, that would fall rather flat. Maybe he could have entered "third Sunday in Lent" or whatever.

      1. G Watty What?

        "2nd Wednesday after Pentecost, 2nd Wednesday after Pentecost!" A. J. Rimmer

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "third Sunday in Lent"

        Not in July.

        Having spent some time sorting out medieval dates when the membranes for different years had been mixed up, the variable feasts were a great source of circular reasoning. It didn't help that the Easter calculator I found online disagreed with another Easter table I found - resolved when I discovered that in some years the calculator gave me dates that didn't fall on a Sunday.

        1. Patched Out
          Holmes

          At least for non-orthodox denominations, Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. I'm not kidding.

          1. Andy A

            But it isn't the REAL moon, but a special, hypothetical, moon reserved just for the calculation of Easter.

            I'm not kidding. This was stated in Parliament during the passing of the Easter Act 1928.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Does not apply to medieval documents.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            But what date was that in 1296?

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Happy

      Ah!

      A Roman Catholic!

    3. MJB7

      My Uncle (who was not ordained, but was Reader in Church History at Durham) would have written that as 2.vii.1984 - which wouldn't have worked any better

      1. MarkSitkowski

        I've been writing my dates like that since working in the U.S, where 2/7/1984 doesn't mean the same as 2/7/1984 means in the U.K.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          My employer requires the following, so there is no confusion:

          dd-mmm-yy

          With 2-digit or 4-digit year

          With or without dashes (but no slashes)

          mmm or full month name

          Being a highly-regulated international company where dates are critical, this makes a lot of sense.

      2. VerySlowData

        My late wife's father who was a linguist at Aston University in Brum also wrote dates this way: 4.vii.2021

        I think he used this format when he was studying for his doctorate at Lyon in France.. I tend to do dates as SUN04JUL2021 these days..

  7. macjules Silver badge

    Calling upon a higher power

    I have worked for a UK church organisation that did not so much hold daily standups but morning prayers, at which we would be praised for accomplishing completion of a Jira ticket or a prayer would be invoked, asking God to guide the hand of the developer in solving the blocker. Production deployments merited a special meeting where everyone would stand and contemplate for a moment before a prayer asking God to look down favourably upon the DevOps team.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Calling upon a higher power

      I guess that's one way to handle change management...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Wilco

      Re: Calling upon a higher power

      So now we can add Agile software development to the long list of things that religious people don't seem to be able to properly grasp

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        Given its private language, appeal to faith above reason and constant ceremonies, I would have thought Agile was a perfect example of ecclesiasticism.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Calling upon a higher power

          Nah. It's Shamanism.

    3. Dave559 Silver badge

      Re: Calling upon a higher power

      Being smited (smote? or even smitten – but isn't that something different?) whenever you inadvertently included a bug in your code would start to get quite tiring after a while, though… :-(

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        “Smite” is a Type 1 Germanic strong verb, like “write”, so it’s conjugated as “smite, smote, has smitten”.

        (Not all Type 1 verbs have preserved this pattern in modern English, though — had the Old English verb sċítan preserved its Type 1 strong conjugation, “shite, shote, has shitten” would be used instead of “shit, shat/shit, has shat/has shit”.)

    4. Lon24 Silver badge

      Re: Calling upon a higher power

      I did some OCR work for a Diocese many easter moons ago. The very large religious document was appropriately in some gothic font. Well the OCR software (Textbridge?) was pretty good at checking stuff semantically and syntactically and the Diocese was excessively mean on budget - forgoing the added expense of proof reading.

      Their belief in the infallibility of computers was somewhat greater than mine - so I thought I might just cast an eye 'just-in-case'.

      It had worked very well. The only error I spotted was that it was all about some entity called Cod. Of course every sentence made a sort of sense (try it) and there was barely one that made no reference to our piscine saviour. A quick find & replace sorted it in the hope that any reference to the feeding of the five thousand had not been too fishily definitive.

      1. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        It's probably also relevant to note here in regard to this field of work that, should you be asked to supply computing power to a monastery for a contract to enumerate the nine billion names of God, it would be a really good idea to turn it down…

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Calling upon a higher power

          Or, depending on how you feel things are going, it may be an excellent time. Just don't put the money in long-term investments.

      2. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        I find it quite amusing that Cod is semantically equivalent to God.

        Makes the miracle of the loaves and fishes problematic though, for the holy trinity.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Calling upon a higher power

          These are my fingers, eat them in memory of me (fried in breadcrumbs).

        2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          I find it quite amusing that Cod is semantically equivalent to God.

          Well, the acrostic

          ∝ → ἸΧΘΥΣ (Ἰησοῦς Χρῑστός Θεοῦ Yἱός Σωτήρ)

          has been around since the 2nd century AD …

      3. ricardian

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        The piece of cod that passes all understanding?

        1. Grey_Kiwi

          Re: Calling upon a higher power

          That was a chapter subheading in "1066 and all that: A Memorable History of England"

          Quite a famous and very funny book in its time

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_and_All_That

          The chapter was

          =================

          SCHOOL FOOD

          Or The piece of cod that passes all understanding

          =================

      4. MCMLXV

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        Not forgetting Rick Stein, the ever-depressing cod-botherer.

    5. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Calling upon a higher power

      I would imagine even many atheists would admit daily prayers aren't less productive than a typical stand-up.

      @macjules did they have a mixture of Christians and normal folk, that's an interesting dynamic if so.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        Yes, but if you were not part of the 'flock' you were excused from the obligatory Tuesday morning church service though.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Calling upon a higher power

          As an agnostic Yank going to a CofE school in Yorkshire in the 1970s, I was excused from the morning assembly. I used the time to go over my homework, improving my mind instead of being brainwashed.

          Still had to wear the school Uniform, though. My girlfriend, who went to the local Catholic school, and I were once seen sitting on a bench outside the public library together, each in Uniform. Both of us were threatened with expulsion if we were seen together again ... Seems that fraternization between the schools was heavily frowned upon, based purely on the xtian cults the schools espoused. The mind absolutely boggles.

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Calling upon a higher power

            You don't seem very educated if you think mainstream CofE/Catholicism are cults. I think you got your brainwashing, just from a different source - as we all do.

            Were you forbidden because the schools had different faiths, or because they didn't allow boys and girls to mix at all?

    6. TomPhan

      Re: Calling upon a higher power

      I was on a (mandated) training course this week where we were told not to use the term "standups" as it would be offensive to people who couldn't stand up. Instead we were supposed to call them "scrums" - it wasn't worth explaining what happens during one of those.

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: Calling upon a higher power

        You should have told them that one in eight people in a scrum is a Hooker.

  8. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    The chosen one

    Martin should have told him to RTFB.

    (For the avoidance of doubt: B stands for Bible)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The chosen one

      FB? Not the Zuckerberg one, I hope.

      Perhaps the "wicked" bible? It advises F.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: The chosen one

        The Boomer Bible would be a better source of reference

  9. Precordial thump

    RTFM

    The answer was in the Book of Numbers

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: RTFM

      Revelations, surely?

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: RTFM

        Revelations.

        I have always seen that book as being written proof that the author had access to some very potent psychedelics.

        "Here, John...just take a hit of this before you write the next book..."

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. GlenP Silver badge

    those mainstays of today's Parish Newsletter: Comic Sans and Microsoft Publisher

    Publisher, yes when I was editing a Church Newsletter, Comic Sans - never! My favourite for that job was Century Schoolbook as people with failing eyesight found it easiest to read. It's still used now, several years and several editors later.

    1. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

      Totally agree with Century Schoolbook. It hits all the buttons for legibility, and while not pretty like Palatino, is rather elegant in a robust way. I used it all the time for my engineering reports. Times New Roman is for wimps. Or rather, it is for newspaper columns, and there it should stay.

      By the way, I read that Comic Sans is favoured font among literacy therapists, because it is somehow not so intimidating as all the rigid big-booted serif fonts.

      Off the point a bit, but have you ever seen the scanned-in notebooks of Edsker Djikstra? Wonderfully clear handwriting, with none of that joined-up crap I was taught at school, which just makes for an illegible scrawl, unless you are a particularly fussy calligraphist. I tried to develop a super-clear writing style at school, and based it partly on the History teacher's style. My first history essay in the new style merited a comment "fair work, but why the chlldish writing style?" I didn't have the nerve to tell him.

      1. JQJ

        Spelling (-1).

        Edsger W. Dijkstra (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edsger_Dijkstra).

  12. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
    Headmaster

    School days

    From the title I was expecting a mathematical conundrum from a text based adventure game from the early '80s

    I still remember "L" fondly. And can still use a quick square root

  13. CuChulainn

    Ah. Well, ahem...!

    Something along these lines caught me out recently.

    My bank insists you have a magic key-phrase when you set up online banking, and each time you log in you have to type the requested random three characters out of it.

    It's a complete ball ache in the first place, but during lockdown I set a second account up for my dad because he was no longer able to go to his building society (who didn't do anything other than on paper, anyway). But such a dumb security system means you have to write the damned thing down somewhere.

    I always make the key-phrases more complex by using numbers to replace letters in them, and in my dad's case - and for God knows what reason - I left one lower case 'L' as a lower case 'L', and another as a '1'. And then forgotten I'd done so (if I ever realised I had split them).

    It took forever to figure out what I was doing wrong when I couldn't log in until it suddenly clicked. And it took weeks to manifest itself in the first place until that particular '1' was one of the random three requested.

    1. roytrubshaw
      Pint

      Re: Ah. Well, ahem...!

      Obligatory xkcd reference:

      https://xkcd.com/936/

      Because it's Friday ------->

      1. CuChulainn

        Re: Ah. Well, ahem...!

        That pretty much sums up how I do it.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Ah. Well, ahem...!

          Re choosing passwords, I find it amusing that the companies that ban you using parts of your own name or login ID, don't ban their own company name. Which makes the password easy to remember: company name plus check digit plus shift check digit.

          1. CuChulainn

            Re: Ah. Well, ahem...!

            It's even worse when they log you out automatically if you don't touch the keyboard or click on anything for 90 seconds.

          2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Ah. Well, ahem...!

            I once tried to set an account password on SCO UNIX of "moscow". I was young and reckless. I was not however in the pay of Russia, but for a short while I thought they thought I was.

            "Must not repeat a letter" is the password rule that annoys me most. Equal with "We do not tell you the rules before you try to set a password".

            But your plan is probably covered by the first 500 attempts of any hacker.

            Call me paranoid - when I need a new password, I spend about five minutes rolling dice.

    2. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

      Re: Ah. Well, ahem...!

      If I have to write something like that down, I distinguish lower case L from one by using a script lower case L.

  14. What? Me worry?
    Pint

    there can be only one

    "The Catholic Church goes for Isidore of Seville, a scholar who died in the seventh century and whose patronage includes computer users and the internet." You left out the beer! Quelle horreur! https://nl.latrappetrappist.com/nl/nl/producten/p.23213.suffix.html/la-trappe-isidor.html (yes, I know this is a different guy, but he is the one that counts. ;) )

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

      Re: there can be only one

      2.5 miles up the road is a St. Isidore Catholic Church. That will make the association so much easier to remember.

  15. gnasher729 Silver badge

    At a former place, around the time of the millennium crisis, our build system broke on February 2nd, 2000. Some code checked the date and rejected this one. Investigation showed that the date checking code was completely, absolutely broken. It was written in Perl, and it was the kind of brokenness that you could only produce in perl. But - it was never given an incorrect date, and in the past it had reported all dates are fine.

    Exercise to the reader: In which way was February 2nd, 2000, different from every single date in the 1000 years before?

    1. Sam not the Viking

      How odd. Or not, even.

    2. Victor Ludorum

      What an odd problem

      Er, I mean even.

      Reminds me of the 'fact' about 19th November 1999 - the last date for over 1000 years to contain no even digits.

    3. jmch Silver badge
      Happy

      "In which way was February 2nd, 2000, different from every single date in the 1000 years before?"

      Feb 2nd is Groundhog day... so was it the time Bill Murray finally got it right at the 1000th time of asking? :)

      Seriously now, I would say it's the first time since September 30th, 999 that there was no "1" digit in the full date... that Perl script must have been seriously scrweed up if that is what triggered it.

      1. yetanotheraoc

        Pedant alert

        `the first time since September 30th, 999 that there was no "1" digit in the full date`

        October 30th, 999 also does not contain a "1", nor does November 30th, 999, et cetera.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pedant alert

          Yes they do, when written numerically: 10/30/999 and 11/30/999. (Substitute your own dd-mm-yyyy order etc. as desired; same outcome.)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Pedant alert

            Muthry's law strikes again.

    4. yetanotheraoc

      Hang on there...

      "But - it was never given an incorrect date, and in the past it had reported all dates are fine."

      If it was completely, absolutely broken, how can you be sure the first part was true? And the corollary, if you are so sure it will never be given an incorrect date, why is it even being checked?

    5. dak
      Pint

      It was my birthday

    6. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

      The Joy of Date Routines

      I had a go around with the guy who wrote the date routines at I company I was working for. On the first pass, he had 1900 as a leap year. I pointed out that that was wrong. On the second pass he had 2000 as NOT a leap year. So Pointed out that error (I'd given the correct--Gregorian--formula the first time). On the third pass, he got it right.

      What I want to know is...If the localization in Linux is NOT an English speaking country, is the date shift between Julian and Gregorian calendars correct for that country?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The Joy of Date Routines

        The man page for cal back in Unix V7 said "For England and her colonies". For modern cal it says "The assignment of Julian–Gregorian switching dates to country codes is historically naive for many countries." so the answer is "perhaps".

      2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        Re: The Joy of Date Routines

        What I want to know is...If the localization in Linux is NOT an English speaking country, is the date shift between Julian and Gregorian calendars correct for that country?

        It could depend upon the country. For example, different principalities within the Holy Roman Empire had different dates of switching from Julian to Gregorian, so localization would have to be extremely local for countries such as Germany. Sweden (then including Finland) wound up with a date of 30th February 1712 when abandoning its first attempt to switch over. Even in (now) English-speaking countries, Alaska switched only in 1867, after its purchase from Russia by the USA.

      3. David Woodhead
        Facepalm

        Re: The Joy of Date Routines

        I had a go around with the guy who wrote the date routines at I company I was working for. On the first pass, he had 1900 as a leap year. I pointed out that that was wrong. On the second pass he had 2000 as NOT a leap year. So Pointed out that error (I'd given the correct--Gregorian--formula the first time). On the third pass, he got it right.

        Given that this is such a fundamental error which could cause untold problems, possibly very expensive, I hope that either (s)he or the person who employed them was soon let go.

  16. Novex
    Facepalm

    For my sins...

    ...I have to code in VBA in Office (Access mostly), which defaults to Courier New. '1' and 'l' (lower case L) basically are the same appearance wise. There is a very subtle shift in the pixels on screen between the two but it's practically not noticeable. So I've got used to making sure I try not to use a single 'l' for variables, in case when I come back to code in future I confuse it with a '1'. Fortunately variables in vba can't start with numbers, so anything that looks like a '1' at the beginning should only be an 'l'.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speaking of Satan

    That reminded me of Oracle, which suppresses leading blanks in some tools, like SQL Developer.

    So you're sitting there wondering why 2 records won't join, because you can't see the leading blank in one field, until you use the SELECT 'X'||field FROM hack.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of Satan

      Argh! Too memories of dealing with the horrors of Microsoft Access databases... Where, depending on the current wind direction, speed and phase of the moon, an empty string column may be returned as " " (single space), or it could be returned as "" (nothing) - set the value to "" and the read it back and it would return " ".

  18. Paul Cooper

    Zero problems

    Well, I've been preparing sermons electronically since about 1988, starting on a PCW, and never hit that one!

    But I have hit a related problem more recently. For a while, I used a phone-based satnav system that linked with my car's electronics. All well and good! But it had a sort of character at a time handwriting recognition system for inputting addresses etc. Again, so far so good, and it was mostly pretty reliable. But I NEVER found a reliable way to distinguish 0 and O. 1 and l were ok; you just did the serif on a 1. But I tried doing the 0 in either direction - always came up with O. Tried crossing it European style (I habitually do that anyway; habits gained from preparing input sheets to be entered on punch cards) - I forget what it came up with but it wasn't 0! I never did find a way to do it.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Old Habits Die Hard

    The typewriter on which I learned to type, at a tender young age before personal computers were really a thing, was the same one on which my mother had learned. It had no number '1', and may have not had a '0' either. You were expected to use 'l', which, being Roman type, had little serifs on it like a '1'.

    I believe this was not uncommon in the age of the electric typewriter, and the vicar in this story had probably learned the same way.

  21. Nick London
    Angel

    Not Clerical but Judicial

    Although I am a bricks and concrete engineer by calling I am the family go to for IT support.

    A family member practised at the bar and became a part time judge.

    This gave him access to the HM Courts service legal databases but there was a problem, shortly after logging on the online database through him out. Eventually I used MS Windows remote and looking at files noted that his date was wrong by a few days.

    Light bulb moment

    When he logged on the a cookie was set with an expiry date. But when the cookie was checked it decided the cookie had expired and threw him out.

    Change of date and he was good to go.

    Easily done

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Not Clerical but Judicial

      I've seen something similar running a netinst. It kept refusing to use the repositories on the basis that they weren't valid yet because the clock was set was a day behind.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Not Clerical but Judicial

      "A family member practised at the bar and became a part time judge."

      I practised at the bar and became a part time drunk.

  22. Sam Therapy
    Flame

    Similar note, my daughter's name is Ilona. You'd be amazed - or not - how many people pronounce it Eye ona. No, you dingbats, it's I - Lona. "Oh, thought it was two "is". Well, no because then it'd be written Iiona, wouldn't it?

    No doubt some daft bugger would then call her Liona.

    Granted it's not the most common name in the UK but it's fairly widespread across the world, as the Eastern European version of Helen/Helena.

    For the record, we didn't pull it out of a hat, she's named for a good friend of ours.

    1. David Nash
      Coat

      I thought it was eleven-ona.

      Given a bit of thought, yes, I-Lona is the correct interpretation but at first glance (which is what most people do before deciding) you see the first I and recognise correctly that it's an I, then see the second one, which appears to be the same, so "it must be Eye-Ona" job done.

    2. agurney

      To be fair to the dingbats, Iona is a fairly common name in Scotland.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        I'm not in Scotland, but only an hours drive away. I've met at least three ladies over the years called Iona but none called Ilona, so I'd probably make the same mistake.

        Some of the places I go have a fair number of people from the Indian sub-continent working there. When all I have is a printed job sheet with contact details, even with a full name I can't always tell if it's a male or female I'm looking for. It's what you are used to I suppose.

        1. Sam Therapy

          General convention for most Indo-European languages is (Russian and derivatives excepted) if it ends in "a", it's female. In English, it's usually "a" or "e"... but not always.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I remember having a business visitor called Zona. Unusual, but not too strange, were it not for me being in France. Zona is French for "herpes". To my colleagues' credit they did no more than smirk behind their hands.

      3. Sam Therapy

        Well, yeah but convention in names is *usually* upper case for the first letter, followed by all lower case, which would clearly make the first letter I the second one a lower case L. The Welsh mistake wouldn't - or rather, shouldn't - happen because with the exception of e e cummings and the odd name here and there such as ffitch, the leading I would be written L, which would be Llona.

        As for Ilona/Iona, believe me, I do know how to spell my daughter's name.

        I've learned over the past few years that people don't look, nor read, neither do they think, they assume. Mind you, I already knew that but it's still a pain in the arse.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Mind you, I already knew that but it's still a pain in the arse."

          At least you didn't call her Alexa

          Heather's (not her real name) teenage daughter Alexa received abuse from other children, and even teachers, because of her name, as soon as she started secondary school.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ilona

      It could be even worse, someone might interpret it as a Welsh name, and think that it's pronounced "chlona"…?

      (Apologies to Welsh speakers, I'm not exactly sure how to represent the sound of "LL", as in "Llanfair…")

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: Ilona

        Spray that again?

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Ilona

        It could be even worse, someone might interpret it as a Welsh name, and think that it's pronounced "chlona"…?

        In that case they are beyond redemption as names start with an upper case character (with a very few exceptions and I am not aware of any in Welsh).

      3. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        how to represent the sound of [Welsh] “LL”

        Its phonemic description is a “voiceless alveolar lateral fricative”, with the IPA symbol [ɬ] (“belted L”, U+026C). For those who are unfamiliar with Welsh, if you’ve seen an animated film in the Ice Age franchise, think of Sid (the ground sloth) pronouncing the “sl” of “sloth” — something like a hissed “hl”. The “fl” in the name Floyd is another attempt at an English spelling of the Welsh “ll” sound.

  23. ShadowSystems

    I've said it before, I'll say it again...

    God doesn't want me & Satan has a restraining order keeping me from even entering the lobby (Limbo). Until one of them has a change of heart I'll be on an infinite cycle of reincarnations.

    So who's up for some naked twerking & techno disco polka accordian music? I feel some My Skippy's List entries coming on! =-D

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I've said it before, I'll say it again...

      You may have overdosed on the fried frog pills. :-)

      1. EVP

        Re: I've said it before, I'll say it again...

        Might have been a wrong sort of frog that was dried to make the pills… where can get them?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I've said it before, I'll say it again...

          Not sure. Apparently I'm using fried frog pills instead of dried frog pills. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong?

          1. EVP

            Re: I've said it before, I'll say it again...

            Ah, alright then… fried ones are of foreign origin, which explains all the undesired (or rather lack of) effects.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: I've said it before, I'll say it again...

              Maybe he's using dried frog pills instead of dried frog pills.

              1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

                Re: I've said it before, I'll say it again...

                Or dried frog pils

  24. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    When did Father Learn to type

    Since this was the 80's it quite likely Father learned to type on a typewriter in the 70's or earlier (not clear how old he was). Many did not have 1 or 0 on the keyboard among other 'missing' characters we find on a computer keyboard. It's not an old habit but more of not knowing what a computer expected in the field.

    In a typed document, often there is no ambiguity when using l or O for 1 or 0 as the context will tell the reader how to interpret the characters. But a computer is rather stupid and cannot properly interpret when l or O are being used in lieu of 1 or 0.

  25. Kev99

    Many years ago, before many if not most of your readers' parents were even born, many keyboards did not even have a "1" key. You had to use the lower case "L" to type a "1".

  26. Sequin

    I had to change the prompts in an application I wrote from "Press A Key To Continue" to "Press Any Key To Continue" because the main user, who was an electrical engineer, complained that he was not a typist and it was taking him too much time to find the "A" key each time.

    1. A Nother Handle
      Joke

      How long did he spend looking for the Any key?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        That's why I prompt for "Press SPACE to continue" and then wait for any keypress.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: That's why I prompt for "Press SPACE to continue" and then wait for any keypress

          Before formatting your hard drive

        2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          But after responding to the 'S', do you leave 'PACE' in the input buffer ?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      On the basis that users often consider tjis stuff to be magic you could try "Press A Key, Any Key, To Continue".

  27. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    How does somebody not notice the '1' key next to the '2' key? Especially, as the story has made clear, the chap had been entering several different numbers over the previous days? weeks?

    1. Dog11

      What? You have to look at the keyboard when you type? That was the first thing the teacher beat out of us, when I learned.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: You have to look at the keyboard when you type?

        I am still a one-finger pecker (am I allowed to say that?). I learned to touch-type when I was a lad - another kid with a Royal (later moving to an Imperial) typewriter. Certainly builds up power to the pinky to be able to type e.g., "A", but these days, with two keyboards on my desk and a two-page per day diary in front of them there seems little point in hunching forward to type when you have to lean back to wiggle the mice.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      By the "1" not being there as several people already wrote.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Touch typist?

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

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