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FE-Schrift – forgery-impeding typeface (wikipedia.org)
143 points by alcari on Oct 24, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

A similar concept is found in Chinese writing. Numbers are written using relatively few strokes, making it easy to change a "one" into a "two."

1: 一 2: 二 3: 三 4: 四 5: 五 6: 六 7: 七 8: 八 9: 九 10: 十

For financial documents, a more complicated form of symbols is used:

1: 壹 2: 貳 3: 參 4: 肆 5: 伍 6: 陸 7: 柒 8: 捌 9: 玖 10: 拾

I'm reminded of a story in the Book Of Heroic Failures which went something like "Mr Smith, who attempted to pull off the worlds largest single cheque forgery, altered his pay cheque from 14 pounds 8 shillings to 148 million pounds. The fraud was successful right up until the moment he tried to cash it."

The best security for thousands of years has been simple - be a suspicious bastard.

Other than the one to two transformation, are there others? Was the formal system a response to these problems or how it has always been done?

The more formal number ideographs are the original ones, the simpler ones were simplified so numbers aren't as awkward to use.

You can also easily change a one into a ten, for example. Note also that it's not exactly a positional number system like Arabic. E.g. the number 123 would be written 1 hundred 2 ten 3. IIRC you can also easily change a ten into a hundred or thousand, so for larger values with a few zeroes in between you could shift a meaningful place into the zeroes to the left sometimes.

Well, just look at the symbols in his comment. 2 into 3, 4 or 5 is pretty easy looking, as is 1 into 10, 7 or 8. I'm sure you could probably spot more.

Very interesting, thanks - does it apply to Japanese, too?

Yes, with very similar characters. Although in practice only those actually needed to resist forgery are commonly used: 1: 壱 2: 弐 3: 参 10: 拾

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_numerals#Formal_numbe...

Interesting: "it was tested at the University of Giessen's Dept. of Physiology and Cybernetic Psychology." That's quite a name, sounds like it was lifted straight from Command & Conquer.

Cybernetics is more common term in the continental Europe. Anglo-Saxons use "systems theory" and it's slowly replacing cybernetics. If you want to read about cybernetic psychology and related subjects, you might want to google "systems psychology", "systems neuroscience", "systems biology" instead.

It's worth noting that before sci-fi took hold of the term to add its connotations, "cybernetics" has the rather conventional definition of:

  "the scientific study of how people, animals, and machines control and communicate information"

>FE-Schrift has been the only typeface used on new vehicle registration plates of Germany since November 2000, except for plates issued to military-registered vehicles, which still use the former DIN 1451 typeface.

Interesting that the the military vehicles don't get it. It makes some sense that they wouldn't need it, but I can't imagine that it would hurt to have it.

I guess they still have 1 million plates in some storage facility. Nah, jokes aside: what they actually do is to not only legally, but practically issue their own plates, which would include stamping them. Also, they don't use the reflective background white. So not only they don't need it, they also have reasons to continue with the old variant. (And actually, they might indeed have a huge stock of them. Military supplies are often aquired at ridiculous numbers.)

(PS: Sorry, auto-correct inserted a typo, just fixed)

Why would it matter how many plates they have unless they stamp them ahead of time?

The police issues their own plates as well and they manage fine.

Police does use the EU variant for the plates, though. You're right, of course they could go with FE Schrift on their old (non-reflective, non-EU) plates. That would, however, be a new combination that would match neither the new civil plates nor the old ones.

"Nah, Jones aside"

What does this phrase mean?

Might be an autocorrected "jokes aside"

That makes sense. Thank you. It's poor attempt at humor if the comment ends by proposing the punchline as an explanation.

I think that is just a function of military vehicles being excempt from that law in the first place. To force them to also use the standard font would mean changing a totally different law, maybe even add a whole new one if the current status is not defined in federal laws but only in some military-interal regulation. Not that that is impossible, but there is little motivation either.

> Interesting that the the military vehicles don't get it.

Note to others: also "civilian", mostly un-marked car models, buses, trucks etc. get the old-style, non reflective plates in our military.

Then again, their layout looks vastly different from civilian plates, so someone forging a BW plate doesn't really gain anything.

It's an interesting design, but I find myself wondering how often license-plate forgery happened.

The article explains:

> The motivation for the creation of the typeface was spun in the late 1970s in the light of Red Army Faction terrorism

Given the amount of money spent on vehicle licensing, the additional work to create a font is small potatoes. It certainly doesn't cost more to produce.

It's analogous to choosing between TAI and UTC time in a system. They differ by only 36 seconds, but UTC clocks break during leap seconds. Why not just choose the right one.

   Whilst the DIN typeface was using a proportional font, 
   the FE-Schrift is a monospaced font (with different 
   spacing for letters and numbers) for improved machine 
The German version of the Wikipedia article says more clearly that (despite the name: FE = hindering falsification) machine readability was the other important reason for the design and introduction of the typeface.

I believe it is a problem here in the UK, where one can expect to be ANPRed several times on any journey that takes one out of town. A little bit of black tape can turn a six into an eight and make one anonymous, or make a stolen car appear legit.

Sometimes the severity of a crime outweighs the frequency. It may be worth preventing any forgery since, when it does happen, the effects are bad.

Are license plates that hard to forge? How much work is it to stamp one? (Not to mention that you can get away with printing plates even on paper. A buddy was driving his car intercountry but didn't have his official plate, just the temp ones. Border agents were particular about that part. A bit of Photoshop and applying a bit of dust and no problems at all during a trip spanning 3 countries.)

You can actually just buy one for 12 euros, with any combination you like. The stamp, at least in Germany, seems to be the harder thing. It is more common to steal a plate and punch them out.

When you think about it, although the stamps are not that hard to fake, stealing a number plate is a matter of a second. You just clip it out of a plastic frame.

Source: My number plate was stolen in Germany last year.

I found an article that has a little more info but also an interactive demo of why they're hard to forge


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