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On several television and radio commercials recently, I have heard URLs read with paths in them. Shockingly often, the announcer will read the "slash" characters as "backslash." Imagine hearing

h-t-t-p colon BACKSLASH BACKSLASH fleet dot com BACKSLASH home

and you'll know what I mean. Fleet Bank, by the way, is one of the offenders: while they don't include the http:// part in their TV commercial voice-over, they do use a backslash as the path delimiter. You'd think that with enough money to hire Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Jim Gaffigan to do their commercial about Fleet HomeLink, they could at least spring twenty bucks for a copy of Internet for Dummies.

This, of course, is a perverse outgrowth of Windows and DOS using the backslash as their delimiter, for reasons beyond the scope of this write-up (i.e. I don't know). Fortunately, Internet Explorer 5's AutoCorrect will replace such atrocities, so fleet.com\home becomes fleet.com/home. Still, in addition to looking weird to anyone who has ever used the web before, it takes longer to say and eats up precious airtime.

DOS's use of backslash as the path delimiter stems from some ancient decisions made in the day of DOS 2.0.
DOS 1.0 didn't support directories, and thus had no need for a path delimiter. When directory support was added in version 2.0, forward slash had already been assigned to be the parameter delimiter, leaving backslash as the next best choice.

Consequently, Windows adopted this scheme from DOS.

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