2006-10-05 Character set encoding

Today, I received an e-mail from Amazon:

  From: "Amazon.co.uk" <auto-shipping@amazon.co.uk>
  Subject: Your Amazon.co.uk order has dispatched
  Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ASCII
  MIME-Version: 1.0
  Greetings from Amazon.co.uk,
  We thought you would like to know that the following item has been sent 
  <<< cut out some uninteresting parts >>>
  Ordered  Title                          Price  Dispatched  Subtotal  
  Amazon.co.uk items (Sold by Amazon.com Int'l Sales, Inc.):
     1     Salsa [Box set]                  £8.09      1    £8.09

My Mozilla mail program was showing the pound sign as follows:

char encoding amazon.png

Now why does it show the pound sign as a funny question mark? It's because the e-mail header says it should do so (emphasis mine):

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ASCII

That's right, ASCII. Which is a seven-bit character encoding, which does not include the pound sign. Solution? Go to menu View -> Character Encoding -> Western (Windows-1252) (or ISO 8859-1). And the pound sign is shown.

Another fine example of a programmer who didn't understand what a character encoding was and basically just tried to ignore the whole issue and stick with ASCII. It's even spelled the wrong way (the standard prefers US-ASCII).

Q&A probably didn't caught this because they test on a Windows machine with Outlook or Outlook Express, completely forgetting about Apple's, Linux boxes, and Windows machines which don't have the character set by default set to Windows-1252 but to some other language like Russian.

This whole post sounds a bit pedantic however I find it strange that in the 21st century, someone can afford to stick his head in the sand and pretend that the whole world still uses ASCII.