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Re: VMs: Random Text Generation

Hi everyone,

I should perhaps also mention that, in the VMS, the ligatured "4o" character looks (to my eyes) like an afterthought, added to the code at a late stage. This is because it really doesn't have the same flow or geometric structure as any of the other letters of the cipherbet.

My guess is that, when presented with a problem that needing solving, the code creator fell back on a cipher character which had proved useful in the past, rather than adding one within the same scheme (which, as mentioned here before, I think was quite possibly borrowed en masse from a shorthand alphabet).

I should perhaps also point out here that the cipherbet design trick of using rotational symmetry (like Giovanni de Fontana's vowels) wasn't possible, because of the unconstrained orientation of labels, and the existence of (a few) data columns: this meant that a design criterion of the VMS was that the cipherbet should be *rotation-invariant*.

So, my current (admittedly weak) inference is that EVA "4" was the last character added to the cipherbet, and was used to encode a certain category of plaintext that proved to be too unwieldy. I believe that the EVA "o" added to it was simply intended to try to partially hide its connection to the following character, but that (though we're still stumped by the rest of the tricks), this one didn't really fool us. Nice try, but no cigar. :-)

What do I think "4o" codes for? As I think the core of the VMS' coding system is likely to turn out be some kind of number code system based on (stego) Roman numerals, paradoxically the one thing it wouldn't have been very good at handling is... numbers. So: my guess is that "4o" is (in modern programming terms) a kind of "escape character".

In short, I suspect that "4o" + (number) --> (number), whereas (number) --> (dictionary entry #number). This is of course just a prediction... but it's certainly an intriguing possibility. :-)

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

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