Why was '~' chosen to represent the home directory?

I have often wondered why the ~ (tilde) character represents the home directory of a user.

Is there a reason behind this, or is it just because tilde is an infrequently used character?

The Home key was also used for the tilde character on old terminals. See here for more details.

Answered By: Edd Steel

Quoting Wikipedia:

On Unix-like operating systems (including BSD, GNU/Linux and Mac OS
X), tilde often indicates the current user’s home directory: for
example, if the current user’s home directory is /home/bloggsj, then
cd, cd ~, cd /home/bloggsj or cd $HOME are equivalent. This practice
derives from the Lear-Siegler ADM-3A terminal in common use during the
1970s, which happened to have the tilde symbol and the word “Home”
(for moving the cursor to the upper left) on the same key.

layout of the ADM-3A keyboard

You can find photos of the Lear-Siegler ADM-3A keyboard on this site.

image of an ADM-3A keyboard

This terminal is also the source of the movement commands used in the vi editor: h, j, k, l for left, down, up, right.

Answered By: pbm
Categories: Answers Tags: ,
Answers are sorted by their score. The answer accepted by the question owner as the best is marked with
at the top-right corner.