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The pound sign ( £) is the for the —the of the (UK). The same symbol is used for similarly named currencies such as the or occasionally the . It is also sometimes used for currencies named , for example the now withdrawn .

The symbol derives from a capital "L", representing libra, the basic unit of weight in the , which in turn is derived from the name of the same spelling for or a balance. The pound became an English unit of weight and was so named because it originally had the value of one tower pound (~350 grams) of fine (pure) . According to the Royal Mint Museum:

The pound sign is placed before the number (e.g. "£12,000") and separated from the following digits by no space or only a .

The symbol ₤ (note the double dash at its middle) was called the lira sign in , before the adoption of the . It was used (in free variation with £) as an alternative to the more usual L. or Lit. to show prices in . It was also used unofficially as the symbol of the instead of the official Lm.

In American English, the term "pound sign" usually refers to the symbol , and the corresponding telephone key is called the "pound key". The symbols £ and # are both referred to as the pound sign in Canadian English (# is also referred to as the "" and "noughts-and-crosses board").

(2018). 9780195418163, Oxford University Press.

In the eighteenth-century metal fonts, the pound sign was identical to the italic capital "J" rotated 180 degrees.


Codepoints
In the standard, the symbol £ is called "pound sign" and the symbol ₤ "lira sign". These have respective code points:


Unicode notes that the "lira sign" is not widely used, and also claim that the preferred sign for lira is the pound sign.

Some fonts render the pound sign with a double bar (for example on a previous version of the British five pound note); this is simply a different , and the underlying character (and therefore Unicode codepoint) is still a pound sign, and not a lira sign.


Entry methods

Historical
produced for the British market included a "£" Https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Imperial_Typewriter_Co< /ref> shows a machine with two modifier shifts (CAPS and FIG), with the "£" sign occupying the FIG shift position on the key for letter "B". But the advertisement notes that "We make special keyboards containing symbols, fractions, signs, etc., for the peculiar needs of Engineers, Builders, Architects, Chemists, Scientists, etc., or any staple trade."

On Latin-alphabet lacking a "£" symbol type element, a reasonable approximation could be made by typing an "f" over an "L".

In the era, equipment sold for commercial data processing in the UK needed not only to represent the pound sign, but also to handle pre-decimal currency (pounds, shillings, and pence, including halfpennies and farthings). Encodings for the necessary symbols varied by manufacturer. By the time of in 1971, national variants of character codes were already well established and naturally found their way into early computers.

In the computer age, prior to the introduction of 8-bit character sets in the early 1980s, the most common character code in use in the UK was the UK national variant of ISO 646, standardised as BS 4730. This code was identical to except by the substitution of two characters: x23 became "£" in place of "#", while x7E became "‾" in place of "~". Keyboards (then as now) were manufactured with different key engravings for different national markets; and printers were manufactured to support a variety of national variants of ISO 646, selectable by hardware or software configuration options.

ICL's 1900-series mainframes, used by many UK installations at the time, used a different convention, in which x24 became "£" in place of "$".

The 1980s saw the gradual adoption of 8-bit character sets designed to meet the needs of all Western European languages in a single character set: ISO/IEC 8859-1 was standardised in 1985, based on the character code used in the popular Digital Equipment Corporation VT220 terminal. This code had "£" in position xA3 (which is where it remains in ). The IBM PC originally used a non-standard 8-bit character set Code page 437 in which the "£" character was encoded as x9C; adoption of ISO character codes only came later with Microsoft Windows (introduced under the misnomer "ANSI", because it was that published international standards in the United States).

Other early personal computers also adopted their own solutions. The Commodore 64 computer included a dedicated key for the pound sign (to the right of the number row). The used a variant of that replaced the ("`", character 96, hex 60) with the pound sign, denoted as CHR$96 or (hex) CHR$&60. Since the BBC Micro used a mode as standard, this means that the pound sign is in the 7-bit ASCII variant used on Teletext systems such as , ORACLE and as well.


PC
On Microsoft Windows, and , the UK keyboard layout has the "£" symbol on the 3 number key and is typed using:

On a keyboard in Windows, the "£" can be entered using:

On a US-International keyboard in Linux and Unix, the "£" can be entered using:

  • followed by

In Windows, it can also be generated through the Alt keycodes:

  • + (keeping Alt pressed until all 4 digits have been typed on the only)
  • +
  • +

In

  • +
The Character Map utility and 's Insert Symbol commands may also be used to enter this character.


Mac
The symbol "£" is in the character set and can be generated on most non-UK keyboard layouts which do not have a dedicated key for it, typically through: On UK Apple Mac keyboards, this is reversed, with the "£" symbol on the number 3 key, typed using:


Compose key
The sequence is:


Currencies that use the pound sign


Printing
In the 1980s, the two main standards for the print codes for a pound sign were ASCII 186 for the HP Laserjet and ASCII 156 for most other printers including the IBM Quietwriter and Epson dot matrix printers. In order to print a pound sign, each needed to be set up individually to print the sign for a particular printer. For many word processors a terminate and stay resident program (TSR) was needed to convert the code generated by the package into the right code for the printer. Packages such as had utilities to set up this conversion without needing a TSR.


Other uses
Until 2017 the logo of the UK Independence Party, a British political party, was based on the pound sign. It is also used as the logo of , a British record label.


See also

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