The Bell Character

My favorite ASCII character is the bell. This character was used in early five-bit character sets, first developed in the Nineteenth Century. It was used to signal a telegraph terminal to ring a bell, alerting the receiving telegraph operator that a message was coming in. Though it’s just a vestigial remnant of the immediate successor to Morse Code, there is still a slot reserved for the bell in modern character sets.

Your Inkjet printer will not ring a bell when fed a bell character, but many Unix/Linux or DOS-based command prompt terminals will sound a tone when called on to print a bell to the screen.

In your browser, a bell looks (or sounds) like this:

You’re probably seeing a rectangle, an empty space, or an oval with the letters “BEL” inside.