Kids, Code, and Computer Science Magazine

ASCII

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ASCII is a set of letters, numbers, and characters computers use to communicate accurately.

If you write an email on your computer screen and you want to send it to someone else to view on their computer screen, how do your computers know how to display every character, word, sentence, and paragraph in the email?

Your computers need a map to identify all possible letters, numbers, and other characters. The capital letter M, for example, would have a unique identifier different from a unique identifier for lower case m. This makes it easy to send an email to a friend and know they’ll be able to read it on their computer.

In its simplest form, ASCII is a map computers use to identify letters, numbers, and other characters.

Of course, the first maps computers used had to evolve to identify characters from many other languages. And the word ASCII also is called text, as in text editors, to differentiate it from binary files which are a different topic.

How does your computer tell the difference between the letter M you type in a word processing program and a lower case letter m? Or, for that matter, the number 5 from the number 2?

 

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