How do you encode symbols on license places?

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California lets you order a Kids License Plate. These license plates can include one of four symbols (heart, hand, star, plus). What I wonder is: how are these represented in the DMV computer, especially since heart and hand aren't standard 101-key characters, and star isn't really one--though using "*" seems obvious.

  1. The state has standard encodings for each symbol. Imagine what it must be like to modify every computer in the state to handle four new symbols!
  2. All four symbols are represented by a single character, such as "*".
  3. The symbol isn't actually part of the license plate number at all.

These possibilities can be distinguished by trying to order various license plate combinations. If the state will issue both XXX+XXX and XXX*XXX, then you know that it's a real symbol. If it will issue XXX+XXX and XXXXXX but not XXX*XXX as well, then it's likely to be a single symbol for all four. If it won't issue both XXX+XXX and XXXXXX, then it's likely not really part of the number. Here's some evidence that it's possibility (2): when you order the plate, you first choose your kids symbol and then you select "@" to represent the symbol.

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I've read before that the DMV treats all symbols the same and represents them with *.

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