The Secret 'Euro' Bug

photo: exchange, gold window

Despite the introduction of the Euro, there are still
plenty of other currencies to exchange.

At the End: the 'Good' News

Paris:- Thursday, 4. February 1999:- The other day while I was looking for mysterious romance on the Seine's quais, I noticed myself to be passing the Monnaie de Paris, the French Mint; the place where 'Euros' are made.

It occurred to me that it was a good opportunity to go in and ask them how our new money is coming along. It's been in nominal existence for a whole month now.

While I was waiting for the traffic to clear the Quai de Conti so I could cross over without benefit of a legal passagewat, another question occurred to me as well. When the lights are one way, cars come off the Pont Neuf and out of the Rue Dauphine and when they change there are about three or four files of traffic coming along the quai from Saint-Michel. So, I had time to think up more than two questions.

The main one is, the 'Euro' has its own currency symbol: a capital 'C' with two horizontal crossbars. This isn't in the character set on my computer and I doubt if yours has it either.

Just about all of us have the signs $, ¢, £ and ¥. If we were currency traders gambling on the ForEx exchanges, we would be using the three-letter codes, like USD for US dollars, FRF for French Francs and GBL for Sterling Pounds;photo: euro wall symbol and now EUR for Euros. But, for writing, I can't use these because they're only well-known to the money traders.

What I really need is the symbol you are going to see on price tags all over Europe, and will probably soon see in e-sales catalogues.

This house wall is not a price-tag; I 'put' the Euro symbol on it.

The Monnaie de Paris is very proud of all its brand-new 'Euro' stuff. Although coins and notes are not in circulation, a wide variety of 'demo' pieces have been minted, and these are for sale right now.

It took about 30 seconds for the first lady I asked, to grasp the question. Where to get the 'Euro' symbol for my computer? For an answer she passed me on to their Monsieur 'Euro'-computer expert.

It's quite simple really. The Monnaie de Paris simply bought some new PCs with the 'Euro' symbol in the systems and the 'Euro' sign on the keyboards, on the 'E' key. Their cash register has it too, and it is printed out on every receipt. The French Mint is 'Euroed.'

I got back across the Quai de Conti, after a long wait, and continued looking for romantic atmosphere on a gray day on the quais.

When I'd finished, in the Quartier Latin, it occurred to me - again! - that there are a fair number of computer outlets in this district of schools and I might be able to find out more.

On the Boulevard Saint-Germain I found a small shop selling iMacs. A six-year old was getting his mom to get him an orange one. The phones were ringing constantly. She wanted to know how to hook it up to the Internet. Her other companion, looking like he had other things to do elsewhere, told her a pile of inaccutate information. The big expert.

The vendor, too busy with the phones and something vital left out of the machine, had no time to answer, so another customer, waiting his turn, helped out. For some reason the orange iMac was disconnected and returned to its box. Then the other vendor got off the other phone, and took the iMac back out again, plugged it back in and began looking at the empty slot.

Another lady had come in and without taking off her coat started handling the phones. After taking care of another customer, it was my turn to make my request.

No, she said, she didn't know of any available system upgrade to put the 'Euro' symbol into old machines. She thought it might be in the new system. Did I have enough memory installed for it?

Not only do I not have enough memory, but I don't have the 100 Euros necessary to buy the new system either. Just the same, she took my phone number and promised to let me know if there was a system upgrade just for the symbol.

Two doors further on was a bigger shop, for PCs, with no customers in it. The guys running the place didn't have a clue about what's in or out of a Windows system, but there was a student there who fired up a new PC for a looksee.

After a bit of a hunt through its maze, we found a Roman typeface for some Arabic character set which had an 'almost' 'Euro' letter, not symbol. In lower case, it was totally wrong. Along the way, he also found a Cyrillic character set so he got a diskette to copy it; saying he gets emails from Russia which arrive too scrambled to read.

This is an essential point. For Internet transmission, to get a 'new' character through in one piece, the sending machine has to have it, the Unix systems in the middle have to have it, and the receiving machine has to have it. If one of these doesn't have it, it may end up with something like this 'ü' on your screen.

But, it was a start. Windows 98 does have it, sort of. What the PC shop didn't have was customers. When I suggested they should try selling iMacs, they said they were full of bugs, nothing but bugs; real duds, they said. I said the iMac shop next door was full of cash-flush customers.

Along this part of the Boulevard Saint-Germain, there are also big bookshops with lot of technical books. I went in one but I didn't look around too hard. Over the last couple of years, I've learned if it's 'in print,' it's out of date.

The least likely place I went to was the fnac here; the one that is only telephones and computers and software. fnac has good prices, a big selection, but is always slightly understaffed. You wait to find out about things and you wait in line to pay for them.

But I found a two-man computer fix-it booth on the top floor and the guy in it actually knew the answer. The 'Euro' symbol is in Apple's system 8.5. He suggested I look around the 'Net to see if I could get a cheapo fix.

Okay, I've gone this far, I may as well go all the way. Metropole readers are all on the 'Net as well as being all over the world. If I want to use the 'Euro' symbol for Metropole, I have to make sure some 100 million users can use it too. This is my little 'Y2K' bug to solve.

Right off, I will say that the European Community is more worried now about the 'Y2K' bug than it is about the 'Euro' symbol. The 'Euro' symbol was being discussed back in 1997 and thistypo: euro symbol has resulted in a decision to update the 'Unicode Standard' euro character from, quote: 'U+20A0 EURO-CURRENCY SIGN,' to, quote, 'U+20AC EURO SIGN.'

Here is the euro symbol from one of Alexander Svensson's font sets. See below for how to get one.

This is fine with me but I don't know what the 'Unicode Standard' is. The W3 Consortium refers to this as well, but it does not translate into code I can use. Still moot: if your machine doesn't have the character, having the right Web-html code won't work.

Most people have Windows-based PCs so I had a look at what Microsoft has to say about it. Besides giving about 50 'ALT'-key possibilities, the FAQs also point to the European Community's 'Unicode Standard' note as well as the W3 Consortium.

Apple is blunt about it. If you want the 'Euro' symbol you have to acquire their system 8.5. And this system 'upgrade' costs about 100 'Euros' in Europe.

However, Apple does say that third parties such as the Adobe company may supply character sets that can be incorporated into older, pre-OS8.5 operating systems.

What I did not try, yet, was any of the other sources hyper-linked to Apple's suggestion. There may well be other type suppliers who are willing to supply a one-character freebie as a goodwill gesture.

Back in 1997, the European Community was sayingbrochure: monnaie de paris that it was absolutely essential to have the 'Euro' symbol or character in all systems before 1. January 1999, because the new money would be in use worldwide, not just in Europe.

Although the 'Euro' character is now coupled with the 'Y2K' bug on one prominent Euro-info site, all I could find out was that it is totally overshadowed by info about the 'Y2K' bug - as if the 'Euro' character question has been solved, stamped, sealed and delivered.

The Monnaie de Paris makes the coin, not the code.

This may be so at the Monnaie de Paris on the Quai de Conti in the Latin Quarter, but it is not true where I live and where you live; unless you live in a bank.

This may seem like a lot of rant about one little character. But this 'one little character' is a very real symbol of a united Europe. For me, it may be worth the 100 Euros it costs, but I seriously doubt you are willing to pay this amount for such a tiny upgrade.

During my search, I did come across an official suggestion. It said I should simply use the word 'Euro' until I can upgrade my computer's system. The suggestion didn't say whether it should be capitalized or all in lower case, nor whether it comes before or after the numbers.

Without this information, the 'Euro' could end up like the French franc - with no symbol and no apparent official way to write it. On the ForEx it used to be FRF, and on the street it is 'F' or 'francs' or 'FHT' or 'F ttc' or 'FF' and so on - you know, sort of any old way.

Last Minute Update

I didn't just look around; I left some messages behind. On Friday afternoon Mr. Alejandro Moya replied from the European Commission's DG 3 directorate. He wrote, "The good news is that there is a Web site supported by the European Commission providing information about the computing issues of the euro."

Hit "Then click on 'practical aspects'" he added, "And then on 'Euro symbol and downloadable fonts.'" I did this and found a lot of info - in PDF files - and one smaller 'Word' file. This last I could convert and read without downloading and installing the entire Acrobat Reader and its 73 postscript fonts.

Besides finding out that the European Commission seems to be entirely equipped with Windows PC systems and Hewlett-Packard printers, I learned that Windows 98 and NT 5 have the 'Euro' built into most fonts. Microsoft's older 'DOS' will not be upgraded, but all otherbrochure: 'e' euro logo systems from 3.1 and up will be supported in one way or another.

The European Commission has been thinking about the euro symbol answers for a long time.

As well as the 'Unicode' mentioned above being supported, the HTML 4 codes are either '€' or '€' - but these are useless unless Web readers have the new symbol in their own machines. (If you see the euro symbol here instead of strange code, you are euro-ready! Instead of the first 'code,' I see a '?' with my browser.)

The Web URL above also led to Alexander Svensson's typography collection, for both Windows and Macs, and from the downloaded weird-code file I managed to get the very sharp TrueType euro-'E' for the symbol you see on this page, above.

The conclusion: if you want the Euro symbol now, you can get it. The money comes later.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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