Squinting at ASCII on Linux

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ASCII plays a much more important role on our systems than generating techno-art. Let’s explore the commands that allow you to see how it works.

ASCII came about to circumvent the problem that different types of electronic systems were storing text in different ways. They all used some form of ones and zeroes (or ONs and OFFs), but the issue of compatibility became important when they needed to interact. So, ASCII was developed primarily to provide encoding consistency. It became a standard in the U.S. in 1960. Initially, ASCII characters used only 7 bits. Some years later, ASCII was extended to use all 8 bits in each byte.

That said, it is important to understand that ASCII, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange is not used on all computers. In fact, most Linux systems today use UTF-8 — a standard closely related to ASCII but not quite identical. In UTF-8, the classic ASCII characters are encoded in 7 bits and characters with greater values use two bytes.

Read more at NetworkWorld