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Character encoding


In computing, a character encoding is used to represent a repertoire of characters by some kind of an encoding system. Depending on the abstraction level and context, corresponding code points and the resulting code space may be regarded as bit patterns, octets, natural numbers, electrical pulses, etc. A character encoding is used in computation, data storage, and transmission of textual data. Character set, character map, codeset and code page are related, but not identical, terms.

Early character codes associated with the optical or electrical telegraph could only represent a subset of the characters used in written languages, sometimes restricted to upper case letters, numerals and some punctuation only. The low cost of digital representation of data in modern computer systems allows more elaborate character codes (such as Unicode) which represent more of the characters used in many written languages. Character encoding using internationally accepted standards permits worldwide interchange of text in electronic form.

Early binary repertoires include Bacon's cipher, Braille, International maritime signal flags, and the 4-digit encoding of Chinese characters for a Chinese telegraph code (Hans Schjellerup, 1869). Common examples of character encoding systems include Morse code, the Baudot code, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) and Unicode.


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