All About Unicode, UTF8 & Character Sets

This is a story that dates back to the earliest days of computers. The story has a plot, well, sort of. It has competition and intrigue, as well as traversing oodles of countries and languages. There is conflict and resolution, and a happyish ending. But the main focus is the characters — 110,116 of them. By the end of the story, they will all find their own unique place in this world.

 

In the 1960s the American Standards Association created a 7-bit encoding called the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). In this encoding HELLO is 72, 69, 76, 76, 79 and would be transmitted digitally as 1001000 1000101 1001100 1001100 1001111. Using 7 bits gives 128 possible values from 0000000 to 1111111, so ASCII has enough room for all lower case and upper case Latin letters, along with each numerical digit, common punctuation marks, spaces, tabs and other control characters. In 1968, US President Lyndon Johnson made it official – all computers must use and understand ASCII.

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