@ · 10 September 2016

The @ symbol had me running in circles for almost half an hour one day. And it was not because I was tracing it in the sand.

Since you are reading this, you know that I am a blogger. I have put out what some people might call drivel every week. And I have been doing so since 2006. When I want to take a break, I just write a few blog posts during a week and post them early and let the software take care of when they will be released. But that software which works so well for doing this blogging thing sometimes does not do what I think it should do.

I publish my blog with Textpattern. It works well for text-based sites like mine and I like how it works. But sometimes, things go wonky. (A technical term.) Sometimes things just do not do what you think they ought to do. Which is why I spent half an hour on a stupid @ symbol.

All I was trying to do was include the symbol in a reference. A hyperlink. (That really is the technical term for a link to another website.) For some reason, the link did not like the @ symbol. Including it would make everything beyond where I wanted the link into a huge link. It was driving me crazy. Especially, since I had done the exact same thing before in a previous post.

I could not find the way to fix it so I didn’t. I did not fix the error. Instead, I looked up the HTML code for the @ symbol.

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It is just how web pages are made. If you look under the hood of any web page, you will see stuff between triangular braces, the less than (<) and greater than (>) symbols. Those triangular braces and the stuff inside them are called “tags.” Tags are important signs to web browsers because they tell the browsers what to do (like make text italics or bold).

There are other important things besides tags that website administrators and bloggers need to know. One of those things is that every symbol has a code that you normally do not see when you just type. For instance, &nbsp; is a space. If you ever made a website and wanted more than a single space between words, you would need to put &nbsp; for as many spaces as you needed.

People use all sorts of special characters in websites, so I looked up a table to find the one for @. It is &#64;. Just put &#64; wherever you need an @ symbol and you are set. Which is just what I needed. I put &#64; in front of a twitter handle and I had the link on my website. Half an hour later than when I first started.

I guess I should not complain. There are lots of ways I could spend my time. I could clean out the garage or work on my truck (wrote this before it was fixed) or do any number of tasks that could improve my life. Or I could write and publish my work. Sure, only a few people read it (thank you one and all), but I enjoy it and some day, I might even get a little better at it. Maybe I could even make it beyond mediocre. (It could happen.)

At any rate, if you ever happen to be updating web pages or see somebody’s web page with some strange characters, look at it a little closer. You never know, maybe they tried to put in a special character like the @ symbol. Or maybe they were going old school and substituting symbols for swearing because they spent too much time trying to figure out how to get something to work right. Which is not what I was doing with the title of this piece. All I wanted to do was get a little @ symbol to print. And all it took was &#64;. Imagine that.

© 2016 Michael T. Miyoshi

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