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I have to display Spanish on a display with fixed/limited character set. The display is used to control devices like showers, door access etc. So it displays messages like "Remaining credits/time", "Access granted", "Press button to start/stop" and things like that. It is missing the capital letters with acute accent:

Á Í Ó Ú

I have zero Spanish knowledge so the question is:

Do the acute accents only indicate pronunciation or or also semantics? Would it be fine to just substitute those chars with A I O U or do I need to take special considerations?

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    I'm guessing that you will also run into an issue with "Ñ". And if you ever have to drop the tilde from "AÑO" then there will be a lot of hilarity! – Peter M Nov 23 '20 at 16:32
  • @PeterM The letter Ñ is available. Only capital with acute accent are missing. – Rev1.0 Nov 24 '20 at 7:52
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Electronic displays with a fixed height tend to omit the accents altogether (e.g. older displays in trains, the metro, buses, bus stops):

PRÓXIMO TREN LLEGARÁ EN: → PROXIMO TREN LLEGARA EN:

For short messages where the context is obvious it is usually unambiguous what is meant, so in practice there are rarely issues omitting these accents.


Note that you do occasionally see accented small caps used instead as a workaround in such displays:

enter image description here enter image description here

(note, the above signs are Catalan, not Spanish)

Similar to what is done for the enye "Ñ" character:

enter image description here

  • Good point about the "small caps". I could potentially substitute Ó with ó and it would probably look OK on the display. I will test it with the available font, Á and Í however, definitely look lowercase. – Rev1.0 Nov 23 '20 at 11:00
  • Although I made a joke comment above on the OPs question about Ñ, what do electronic signs do for that letter? Because it is a distinct letter and not an accented one. – Peter M Nov 23 '20 at 16:34
  • +1. To make it explicit: the accents can affect semantics -- there are words that differ only in the presence or absence of an accent, e.g. tomo "I take" vs. tomó "(s)he took" -- but as you say, most of the time it's not hard to figure out what was meant. – ruakh Nov 23 '20 at 21:56
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    @ruakh You don’t even need to go that far, in the very first photo given, the display reads LLEGARA, which is a subjuntivo imperfecto form that does not mean the same as the intended future form LLEGARÁ—not that the former conjugation is at all likely to be seen on a display like this. – Roman Odaisky Nov 24 '20 at 0:00
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    @PeterM The character set from my display also uses "small caps" to make the top diacritics fit into the area. See i.paste.pics/a487b7e41405fad0ff5d9493f6b8c10d.png. – Rev1.0 Nov 24 '20 at 7:59

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