Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Hidden Characters: What Can Your Keyboard Really Do?

January 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Money/Business, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.comComputers are so very amazing. They can handle multiple tasks while displaying them to you on the screen. This is while running an operating system, which is essential just a huge piece of software. And, the truth is, most people don’t use their computers to anywhere near their full potential. For instance, most normal PC users have no idea about the hundreds of symbols that they can type, that aren’t displayed on the keyboard. Some older keyboards may not display as many characters as a newer mechanical keyboard, but even then there are advanced functions your keyboard can perform that you may not be aware of.

This might not make very much sense now, but this post is going to begin at the start. A computer can’t understand letters as an input. In fact, the only inputs that a computer can understand are 1’s and 0’s. This is the basis of binary, with 1 representing on and 0 representing off. The computer is able to understand inputs from your keyboard and other sources because it has a cheat sheet. This cheat sheet is the operating system, which converts inputs on a level by level basis until they’re represented as binary. But, of course, it’s not that simple.

To categorize all of the symbols that can be typed and displayed, your computer uses a character sheet. The most common type of character sheet is an ascii chart. Each entry on the chart has a special number assigned to it. Because it’s a number, it can be converted to binary very easily, and read by a computer. For example, the ascii code for the letter A is 65. And, the binary representation of 65 is 1000001.

But, how does this tie into typing? Well, because your computer can’t accept a letter directly as an input, your keyboard has to do some magic. When you hit a letter on your keyboard, instead of sending a letter to the computer, it sends the ascii code for it. Then, the computer can convert it to binary, and then back to a symbol again to be displayed on the screen. But, the keys on your keyboard aren’t the only symbols that can be read by a computer. There are loads more that can be typed using their ascii code.


To use an ascii code, you need a num pad. The top row of numbers on the keyboard won’t work for it. To insert a character, hold down alt and type in it’s code. For example, if you want to have a degree symbol (º), you’d hold down alt and type 0176. When you release alt, the symbol will appear. If it doesn’t work, check to make sure that num lock isn’t on. Otherwise, the numpad will be acting differently.

Of course, a lot of modern laptops and keyboards don’t have a numpad, though. So, you won’t be able to use the codes. Thankfully, there are two ways to solve this. Sites like offer symbols that can be copied with a single click and then pasted into your text. When using a lot of symbols, this could be a pain, though. But, you can invest in a separate numpad, to solve the problem. This is a cheap way to expand your options when it comes to typing. Using these methods will allow you to insert symbols like the one at the end of this line. ?


So, why aren’t these symbols included on every keyboard? Well, for one, it would make keyboard enormous. Even if macro or shortcut keys were used, it would still be hard to avoid adding lots of new keys to a keyboard to have this functionality. Plus, a lot of people don’t use these symbols very often. In fact, they’re used in very specific settings, most of the time. This is probably because most people don’t know about them. They’re a great way to make your documents look a little more unique, and to make your social media posting all the fancier.

Ascii isn’t the only method that is used to add represent characters. It has been used as an example here because it is the most common system used in Windows. Other software will use different methods, and you can find loads of information about them online. For most people, ascii will be just fine, though.

Hopefully, this will inspire you to start using your keyboard to it’s full potential. Once you start using this feature, you’ll find it more and more useful. Unlocking this tool is a great way to make your typing experience more varied and fun. It will also make certain documents and work look much more professional!

Staff Writer; Paul Jones

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