What are ASCII Codes?

December 29,2020 - 4 min read
What are ASCII codes?

The full form of ASCII is ‘American Standard Code for Information Interchange.’ They are a set of codes that uses a range of numbers to represent alphabets and other special characters. Each and every letter is assigned some number between 0 and 127. In alphabets-, upper- and lower-case characters are assigned different numbers. For example, the ASCII code for ‘A’ is 65, while ‘a’ is assigned the ASCII code 97. The ASCII has been around since the time of teletypes and mechanical printers. ASCII decimal numbers from 0 to 31 are reserved for control codes. They are particularly useful when you are working with communications protocols. We would learn more about the different ASCII codes later in this blog.

These were some of the most commonly used ASCII codes while working with computers. In today’s blog, we would discuss all about ASCII codes and why do we need them at the first place. Let’s begin by understanding the internal working and architecture of the computer and in turn understand the concept of ASCII codes. In the next segment, we will learn about the binary system.

The World of Binary

Binary code is the most fundamental concept of programming and the world of Computer Science. Binary code makes everything you see in the digital world possible. Also, I’m able to write this blog and you are able to read it all because of binary code. The binary code makes every device including your computer you use work, the way it does. Basically, binary code enables communication with computers and gives them instructions necessary for execution of a particular task. As developers, the other programming languages you use for writing the code to curate an application are high order languages and their implementation and syntax are far from binary code. However, these high order level languages are translated into binary code. The computers are able to interpret them and run your programs only because it is converted in binary code.

So, the 1’s and 0’s define how computers execute and produce outputs for their users. Understanding the basics of binary coding, its working and its implementation is interesting and fascinating and also quite useful. However, learning binary code can be abstract and difficult to grasp and therefore, in today’s blog, we would explain how these 1’s and 0’s makes our world filled with simple, accessible yet amazing technology.

In the binary system, we represent digits by using powers of 2 starting from the right- hand side. For instance, the first digit, which are the ones, stands for 20, the second digit is 21, which are the 2’s and so on. In the world of binary, there are only two digits, 1 and 0, and each of them tell us whether the value is “on” or “off”. According to convention of computers, “1” indicates that the value of that digit is included in the numerical value and “0” means that it is not included.

It is known that computers only work with 0’s and 1’s as they only understand binary code, the cryptic sequence of 1’s and 0’s. Hence, a computer sends or receives data as a bunch of numbers and these numbers are known as ASCII codes. The range of standard ASCII is 0 to 127 and therefore ASCII codes only require 7 bits or 1 byte of data for storage. Microprocessors in computers only understand the language of bits and bytes and therefore everything is represented and stored as a sequence of bits.

To know more about the binary system and binary coding works, you can refer to this blog. A proper knowledge of binary system will help you better understand ASCII codes in proper detail. In this blog, we will dwell into the details of ASCII codes. Let us begin!

History of ASCII Codes

Bob Bemer sent a proposal to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop a single code for computer communication in 1961. ANSI created the X3.4 Committee under the leadership of John Auwaerter which negotiated over the proposal and discussed how the code would look and operate.

Bob Bemer is also known as the “father of ASCII”. He contributed towards the development of the “escape” sequence too. Finally, in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a memorandum and hence ASCII was adopted as the standard communication language for computers. As the popularity of internet grew, ASCII became ubiquitous and became the basis for characters in email messages and HTML documents. However, it was only after eighteen years from its year of publication that ASCII was installed in most computers. In 1981, ASCII grew to be the new standard when it released its first personal computer.

The ASCII Code

As explained above, computers can only understand binary numbers and hence there comes the need for ASCII codes. It is basically, a numerical representation of any character such as 'a' or '@'. We just studied that ASCII was developed a long time ago. In the present time, non-printing characters are rarely used for their original use. This set of code was actually designed for teletypes. If someone says they want a particular file in ASCII format, they mean 'plain' text with no extra formatting such as bold or underscoring. ASCII format refers to the raw format that any computer can understand. Files in ASCII format are easily imported without any issues. If you want to save in ASCII format, you can save it as Notepad.exe or save a file as 'text only' in MS word.

ASCII is a basically a set of 7-bit character which contains 128 characters. It has numbers ranging from 0-9, the upper case and lower- case letters of English alphabet, ranging from A to Z. The ASCII code also has some special characters. All the character sets that are used in computers, HTML or on the internet are all based on the ASCII code. In the next paragraph, we have mentioned some ASCII characters and their equivalent number.

The letters in the alphabets are represented by ASCII codes and they are separate for lower- and upper- case letter. The letters a-z are represented by ASCII codes ranging from 97 to 122 and the letter A-Z are represented ASCII codes ranging from 65 to 90. Other than letters, there are ASCII codes for other special characters too. For instance, the code for exclamation mark is 33, for left parenthesis and right parenthesis, the code is 40 and 41 respectively and the code for the sign of ‘at the rate of’ (@), the ASCII code is 64.

Other than letters and other special characters, we have some control characters too for which there are ASCII codes. Control characters are designed to control hardware devices. The ASCII code for control characters range from 0 to 31 and 127 that is reserved for delete (rubout). It is to note that control characters except a few have nothing to do inside an HTML document. The code for NULL character is 00 and the ASCII code for file separator, group separator, record separator, unit separator is 28, 29, 30, 31 respectively.

In this blog we have covered the basics of ASCII code, we have covered the history, the need of ASCII code and their usage. We hope this blog helped you understand the complex nature of the internal working of a computer. Now that you are well- versed with the basics of ASCII language, it’s time to move one step ahead.

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