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ASCII chart from MIL-STD-188-100 (1972)
MIME / IANAus-ascii
Alias(es)ISO-IR-006,[1] ANSI_X3.4-1968, ANSI_X3.4-1986, ISO_646.irv:1991, ISO646-US, us, IBM367, cp367[2]
Language(s)English (made for; does not support all loanwords), Malay, Rotokas, Interlingua, Ido, and X-SAMPA
ClassificationISO/IEC 646 series
Preceded byITA 2, FIELDATA
Succeeded byISO/IEC 8859, ISO/IEC 10646 (Unicode)

ASCII (/ˈæsk/ ASS-kee),[3]: 6  an acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, is a character encoding standard for electronic communication. ASCII codes represent text in computers, telecommunications equipment, and other devices. Because of technical limitations of computer systems at the time it was invented, ASCII has just 128 code points, of which only 95 are printable characters, which severely limited its scope. Modern computer systems have evolved to use Unicode, which has over a million code points, but the first 128 of these are the same as the ASCII set.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) prefers the name US-ASCII for this character encoding.[2]

ASCII is one of the IEEE milestones.[4]


ASCII was developed in part from telegraph code. Its first commercial use was in the Teletype Model 33 and the Teletype Model 35 as a seven-bit teleprinter code promoted by Bell data services.[when?] Work on the ASCII standard began in May 1961, with the first meeting of the American Standards Association's (ASA) (now the American National Standards Institute or ANSI) X3.2 subcommittee. The first edition of the standard was published in 1963,[5][6] underwent a major revision during 1967,[7][8] and experienced its most recent update during 1986.[9] Compared to earlier telegraph codes, the proposed Bell code and ASCII were both ordered for more convenient sorting (i.e., alphabetization) of lists and added features for devices other than teleprinters.[9]

The use of ASCII format for Network Interchange was described in 1969.[10] That document was formally elevated to an Internet Standard in 2015.[11]

Originally based on the (modern) English alphabet, ASCII encodes 128 specified characters into seven-bit integers as shown by the ASCII chart in this article.[12] Ninety-five of the encoded characters are printable: these include the digits 0 to 9, lowercase letters a to z, uppercase letters A to Z, and punctuation symbols. In addition, the original ASCII specification included 33 non-printing control codes which originated with Teletype models; most of these are now obsolete,[13] although a few are still commonly used, such as the carriage return, line feed, and tab codes.

For example, lowercase i would be represented in the ASCII encoding by binary 1101001 = hexadecimal 69 (i is the ninth letter) = decimal 105.

Despite being an American standard, ASCII does not have a code point for the cent (¢). It also does not support English terms with diacritical marks such as résumé and jalapeño, or proper nouns with diacritical marks such as Beyoncé.


ASCII (1963). Control Pictures of equivalent controls are shown where they exist, or a grey dot otherwise.

The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) was developed under the auspices of a committee of the American Standards Association (ASA), called the X3 committee, by its X3.2 (later X3L2) subcommittee, and later by that subcommittee's X3.2.4 working group (now INCITS). The ASA later became the United States of America Standards Institute (USASI)[3]: 211  and ultimately became the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

With the other special characters and control codes filled in, ASCII was published as ASA X3.4-1963,[6][14] leaving 28 code positions without any assigned meaning, reserved for future standardization, and one unassigned control code.[3]: 66, 245  There was some debate at the time whether there should be more control characters rather than the lowercase alphabet.[3]: 435  The indecision did not last long: during May 1963 the CCITT Working Party on the New Telegraph Alphabet proposed to assign lowercase characters to sticks[a][15] 6 and 7,[16] and International Organization for Standardization TC 97 SC 2 voted during October to incorporate the change into its draft standard.[17] The X3.2.4 task group voted its approval for the change to ASCII at its May 1963 meeting.[18] Locating the lowercase letters in sticks[a][15] 6 and 7 caused the characters to differ in bit pattern from the upper case by a single bit, which simplified case-insensitive character matching and the construction of keyboards and printers.

The X3 committee made other changes, including other new characters (the brace and vertical bar characters),[19] renaming some control characters (SOM became start of header (SOH)) and moving or removing others (RU was removed).[3]: 247–248  ASCII was subsequently updated as USAS X3.4-1967,[7][20] then USAS X3.4-1968,[21] ANSI X3.4-1977, and finally, ANSI X3.4-1986.[9][22]


In the X3.15 standard, the X3 committee also addressed how ASCII should be transmitted (least significant bit first)[3]: 249–253 [29] and recorded on perforated tape. They proposed a 9-track standard for magnetic tape and attempted to deal with some punched card formats.

Design considerations[edit]

Bit width[edit]

The X3.2 subcommittee designed ASCII based on the earlier teleprinter encoding systems. Like other character encodings, ASCII specifies a correspondence between digital bit patterns and character symbols (i.e. graphemes and control characters). This allows digital devices to communicate with each other and to process, store, and communicate character-oriented information such as written language. Before ASCII was developed, the encodings in use included 26 alphabetic characters, 10 numerical digits, and from 11 to 25 special graphic symbols. To include all these, and control characters compatible with the Comité Consultatif International Téléphonique et Télégraphique (CCITT) International Telegraph Alphabet No. 2 (ITA2) standard of 1932,[30][31] FIELDATA (1956[citation needed]), and early EBCDIC (1963), more than 64 codes were required for ASCII.

ITA2 was in turn based on Baudot code, the 5-bit telegraph code Émile Baudot invented in 1870 and patented in 1874.[31]

The committee debated the possibility of a shift function (like in ITA2), which would allow more than 64 codes to be represented by a six-bit code. In a shifted code, some character codes determine choices between options for the following character codes. It allows compact encoding, but is less reliable for data transmission, as an error in transmitting the shift code typically makes a long part of the transmission unreadable. The standards committee decided against shifting, and so ASCII required at least a seven-bit code.[3]: 215 §13.6, 236 §4 

The committee considered an eight-bit code, since eight bits (octets) would allow two four-bit patterns to efficiently encode two digits with binary-coded decimal. However, it would require all data transmission to send eight bits when seven could suffice. The committee voted to use a seven-bit code to minimize costs associated with data transmission. Since perforated tape at the time could record eight bits in one position, it also allowed for a parity bit for error checking if desired.[3]: 217 §c, 236 §5  Eight-bit machines (with octets as the native data type) that did not use parity checking typically set the eighth bit to 0.[32]

Internal organization[edit]

The code itself was patterned so that most control codes were together and all graphic codes were together, for ease of identification. The first two so-called ASCII sticks[a][15] (32 positions) were reserved for control characters.[3]: 220, 236 8, 9)  The "space" character had to come before graphics to make sorting easier, so it became position 20hex;[3]: 237 §10  for the same reason, many special signs commonly used as separators were placed before digits. The committee decided it was important to support uppercase 64-character alphabets, and chose to pattern ASCII so it could be reduced easily to a usable 64-character set of graphic codes,[3]: 228, 237 §14  as was done in the DEC SIXBIT code (1963). Lowercase letters were therefore not interleaved with uppercase. To keep options available for lowercase letters and other graphics, the special and numeric codes were arranged before the letters, and the letter A was placed in position 41hex to match the draft of the corresponding British standard.[3]: 238 §18  The digits 0–9 are prefixed with 011, but the remaining 4 bits correspond to their respective values in binary, making conversion with binary-coded decimal straightforward (for example, 5 in encoded to 0110101, where 5 is 0101 in binary).

Many of the non-alphanumeric characters were positioned to correspond to their shifted position on typewriters; an important subtlety is that these were based on mechanical typewriters, not electric typewriters.[33] Mechanical typewriters followed the de facto standard set by the Remington No. 2 (1878), the first typewriter with a shift key, and the shifted values of 23456789- were "#$%_&'() – early typewriters omitted 0 and 1, using O (capital letter o) and l (lowercase letter L) instead, but 1! and 0) pairs became standard once 0 and 1 became common. Thus, in ASCII !"#$% were placed in the second stick,[a][15] positions 1–5, corresponding to the digits 1–5 in the adjacent stick.[a][15] The parentheses could not correspond to 9 and 0, however, because the place corresponding to 0 was taken by the space character. This was accommodated by removing _ (underscore) from 6 and shifting the remaining characters, which corresponded to many European typewriters that placed the parentheses with 8 and 9. This discrepancy from typewriters led to bit-paired keyboards, notably the Teletype Model 33, which used the left-shifted layout corresponding to ASCII, differently from traditional mechanical typewriters.

Electric typewriters, notably the IBM Selectric (1961), used a somewhat different layout that has become de facto standard on computers – following the IBM PC (1981), especially Model M (1984) – and thus shift values for symbols on modern keyboards do not correspond as closely to the ASCII table as earlier keyboards did. The /? pair also dates to the No. 2, and the ,< .> pairs were used on some keyboards (others, including the No. 2, did not shift , (comma) or . (full stop) so they could be used in uppercase without unshifting). However, ASCII split the ;: pair (dating to No. 2), and rearranged mathematical symbols (varied conventions, commonly -* =+) to :* ;+ -=.

Some then-common typewriter characters were not included, notably ½ ¼ ¢, while ^ ` ~ were included as diacritics for international use, and < > for mathematical use, together with the simple line characters \ | (in addition to common /). The @ symbol was not used in continental Europe and the committee expected it would be replaced by an accented À in the French variation, so the @ was placed in position 40hex, right before the letter A.[3]: 243 

The control codes felt essential for data transmission were the start of message (SOM), end of address (EOA), end of message (EOM), end of transmission (EOT), "who are you?" (WRU), "are you?" (RU), a reserved device control (DC0), synchronous idle (SYNC), and acknowledge (ACK). These were positioned to maximize the Hamming distance between their bit patterns.[3]: 243–245 

Character order[edit]

ASCII-code order is also called ASCIIbetical order.[34] Collation of data is sometimes done in this order rather than "standard" alphabetical order (collating sequence). The main deviations in ASCII order are:

  • All uppercase come before lowercase letters; for example, "Z" precedes "a"
  • Digits and many punctuation marks come before letters

An intermediate order converts uppercase letters to lowercase before comparing ASCII values.

Character set[edit]

ASCII (1977/1986)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
2x  SP  ! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . /
3x 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ; < = > ?
4x @ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O
5x P Q R S T U V W X Y Z [ \ ] ^ _
6x ` a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o
7x p q r s t u v w x y z { | } ~ DEL
  Changed or added in 1963 version
  Changed in both 1963 version and 1965 draft

Character groups[edit]

Control characters[edit]

Early symbols assigned to the 32 control characters, space and delete characters. (ISO 2047, MIL-STD-188-100, 1972)

ASCII reserves the first 32 code points (numbers 0–31 decimal) and the last one (number 127 decimal) for control characters. These are codes intended to control peripheral devices (such as printers), or to provide meta-information about data streams, such as those stored on magnetic tape. Despite their name, these code points do not represent printable characters (i.e. they are not characters at all, but signals). For debugging purposes, "placeholder" symbols (such as those given in ISO 2047 and its predecessors) are assigned to them.

For example, character 0x0A represents the "line feed" function (which causes a printer to advance its paper), and character 8 represents "backspace". RFC 2822 refers to control characters that do not include carriage return, line feed or white space as non-whitespace control characters.[35] Except for the control characters that prescribe elementary line-oriented formatting, ASCII does not define any mechanism for describing the structure or appearance of text within a document. Other schemes, such as markup languages, address page and document layout and formatting.

The original ASCII standard used only short descriptive phrases for each control character. The ambiguity this caused was sometimes intentional, for example where a character would be used slightly differently on a terminal link than on a data stream, and sometimes accidental, for example the standard is unclear about the meaning of "delete".

Probably the most influential single device affecting the interpretation of these characters was the Teletype Model 33 ASR, which was a printing terminal with an available paper tape reader/punch option. Paper tape was a very popular medium for long-term program storage until the 1980s, less costly and in some ways less fragile than magnetic tape. In particular, the Teletype Model 33 machine assignments for codes 17 (control-Q, DC1, also known as XON), 19 (control-S, DC3, also known as XOFF), and 127 (delete) became de facto standards. The Model 33 was also notable for taking the description of control-G (code 7, BEL, meaning audibly alert the operator) literally, as the unit contained an actual bell which it rang when it received a BEL character. Because the keytop for the O key also showed a left-arrow symbol (from ASCII-1963, which had this character instead of underscore), a noncompliant use of code 15 (control-O, shift in) interpreted as "delete previous character" was also adopted by many early timesharing systems but eventually became neglected.

When a Teletype 33 ASR equipped with the automatic paper tape reader received a control-S (XOFF, an abbreviation for transmit off), it caused the tape reader to stop; receiving control-Q (XON, transmit on) caused the tape reader to resume. This so-called flow control technique became adopted by several early computer operating systems as a "handshaking" signal warning a sender to stop transmission because of impending buffer overflow; it persists to this day in many systems as a manual output control technique. On some systems, control-S retains its meaning, but control-Q is replaced by a second control-S to resume output.

The 33 ASR also could be configured to employ control-R (DC2) and control-T (DC4) to start and stop the tape punch; on some units equipped with this function, the corresponding control character lettering on the keycap above the letter was TAPE and TAPE respectively.[36]

Delete vs backspace[edit]

The Teletype could not move its typehead backwards, so it did not have a key on its keyboard to send a BS (backspace). Instead, there was a key marked RUB OUT that sent code 127 (DEL). The purpose of this key was to erase mistakes in a manually-input paper tape: the operator had to push a button on the tape punch to back it up, then type the rubout, which punched all holes and replaced the mistake with a character that was intended to be ignored.[37] Teletypes were commonly used with the less-expensive computers from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC); these systems had to use what keys were available, and thus the DEL character was assigned to erase the previous character.[38][39] Because of this, DEC video terminals (by default) sent the DEL character for the key marked "Backspace" while the separate key marked "Delete" sent an escape sequence; many other competing terminals sent a BS character for the backspace key.

The early Unix tty drivers, unlike some modern implementations, allowed only one character to be set to erase the previous character in canonical input processing (where a very simple line editor is available); this could be set to BS or DEL, but not both, resulting in recurring situations of ambiguity where users had to decide depending on what terminal they were using (shells that allow line editing, such as ksh, bash, and zsh, understand both). The assumption that no key sent a BS character allowed Ctrl+H to be used for other purposes, such as the "help" prefix command in GNU Emacs.[40]


Many more of the control characters have been assigned meanings quite different from their original ones. The "escape" character (ESC, code 27), for example, was intended originally to allow sending of other control characters as literals instead of invoking their meaning, an "escape sequence". This is the same meaning of "escape" encountered in URL encodings, C language strings, and other systems where certain characters have a reserved meaning. Over time this interpretation has been co-opted and has eventually been changed.

In modern usage, an ESC sent to the terminal usually indicates the start of a command sequence, which can be used to address the cursor, scroll a region, set/query various terminal properties, and more. They are usually in the form of a so-called "ANSI escape code" (often starting with a "Control Sequence Introducer", "CSI", "ESC [") from ECMA-48 (1972) and its successors. Some escape sequences do not have introducers, like the VT100 full reset command "ESC c".[41]

In contrast, an ESC read from the terminal is most often used as an out-of-band character used to terminate an operation or special mode, as in the TECO and vi text editors. In graphical user interface (GUI) and windowing systems, ESC generally causes an application to abort its current operation or to exit (terminate) altogether.

End of line[edit]

The inherent ambiguity of many control characters, combined with their historical usage, created problems when transferring "plain text" files between systems. The best example of this is the newline problem on various operating systems. Teletype machines required that a line of text be terminated with both "carriage return" (which moves the printhead to the beginning of the line) and "line feed" (which advances the paper one line without moving the printhead). The name "carriage return" comes from the fact that on a manual typewriter the carriage holding the paper moves while the typebars that strike the ribbon remain stationary. The entire carriage had to be pushed (returned) to the right in order to position the paper for the next line.

DEC operating systems (OS/8, RT-11, RSX-11, RSTS, TOPS-10, etc.) used both characters to mark the end of a line so that the console device (originally Teletype machines) would work. By the time so-called "glass TTYs" (later called CRTs or "dumb terminals") came along, the convention was so well established that backward compatibility necessitated continuing to follow it. When Gary Kildall created CP/M, he was inspired by some of the command line interface conventions used in DEC's RT-11 operating system.

Until the introduction of PC DOS in 1981, IBM had no influence in this because their 1970s operating systems used EBCDIC encoding instead of ASCII, and they were oriented toward punch-card input and line printer output on which the concept of "carriage return" was meaningless. IBM's PC DOS (also marketed as MS-DOS by Microsoft) inherited the convention by virtue of being loosely based on CP/M,[42] and Windows in turn inherited it from MS-DOS.

Requiring two characters to mark the end of a line introduces unnecessary complexity and ambiguity as to how to interpret each character when encountered by itself. To simplify matters, plain text data streams, including files, on Multics used line feed (LF) alone as a line terminator.[43]: 357  The tty driver would handle the LF to CRLF conversion on output so files can be directly printed to terminal, and NL (newline) is often used to refer to CRLF in UNIX documents. Unix and Unix-like systems, and Amiga systems, adopted this convention from Multics. On the other hand, the original Macintosh OS, Apple DOS, and ProDOS used carriage return (CR) alone as a line terminator; however, since Apple later replaced these obsolete operating systems with their Unix-based macOS (formerly named OS X) operating system, they now use line feed (LF) as well. The Radio Shack TRS-80 also used a lone CR to terminate lines.

Computers attached to the ARPANET included machines running operating systems such as TOPS-10 and TENEX using CR-LF line endings; machines running operating systems such as Multics using LF line endings; and machines running operating systems such as OS/360 that represented lines as a character count followed by the characters of the line and which used EBCDIC rather than ASCII encoding. The Telnet protocol defined an ASCII "Network Virtual Terminal" (NVT), so that connections between hosts with different line-ending conventions and character sets could be supported by transmitting a standard text format over the network. Telnet used ASCII along with CR-LF line endings, and software using other conventions would translate between the local conventions and the NVT.[44] The File Transfer Protocol adopted the Telnet protocol, including use of the Network Virtual Terminal, for use when transmitting commands and transferring data in the default ASCII mode.[45][46] This adds complexity to implementations of those protocols, and to other network protocols, such as those used for E-mail and the World Wide Web, on systems not using the NVT's CR-LF line-ending convention.[47][48]

End of file/stream[edit]

The PDP-6 monitor,[38] and its PDP-10 successor TOPS-10,[39] used control-Z (SUB) as an end-of-file indication for input from a terminal. Some operating systems such as CP/M tracked file length only in units of disk blocks, and used control-Z to mark the end of the actual text in the file.[49] For these reasons, EOF, or end-of-file, was used colloquially and conventionally as a three-letter acronym for control-Z instead of SUBstitute. The end-of-text character (ETX), also known as control-C, was inappropriate for a variety of reasons, while using control-Z as the control character to end a file is analogous to the letter Z's position at the end of the alphabet, and serves as a very convenient mnemonic aid. A historically common and still prevalent convention uses the ETX character convention to interrupt and halt a program via an input data stream, usually from a keyboard.

The Unix terminal driver uses the end-of-transmission character (EOT), also known as control-D, to indicate the end of a data stream.

In the C programming language, and in Unix conventions, the null character is used to terminate text strings; such null-terminated strings can be known in abbreviation as ASCIZ or ASCIIZ, where here Z stands for "zero".

Control code chart[edit]

Binary Oct Dec Hex Abbreviation Unicode Control Pictures[b] Caret notation[c] C escape sequence[d] Name (1967)
1963 1965 1967
000 0000 000 0 00 NULL NUL ^@ \0 [e] Null
000 0001 001 1 01 SOM SOH ^A Start of Heading
000 0010 002 2 02 EOA STX ^B Start of Text
000 0011 003 3 03 EOM ETX ^C End of Text
000 0100 004 4 04 EOT ^D End of Transmission
000 0101 005 5 05 WRU ENQ ^E Enquiry
000 0110 006 6 06 RU ACK ^F Acknowledgement
000 0111 007 7 07 BELL BEL ^G \a Bell
000 1000 010 8 08 FE0 BS ^H \b Backspace[f][g]
000 1001 011 9 09 HT/SK HT ^I \t Horizontal Tab[h]
000 1010 012 10 0A LF ^J \n Line Feed
000 1011 013 11 0B VTAB VT ^K \v Vertical Tab
000 1100 014 12 0C FF ^L \f Form Feed
000 1101 015 13 0D CR ^M \r Carriage Return[i]
000 1110 016 14 0E SO ^N Shift Out
000 1111 017 15 0F SI ^O Shift In
001 0000 020 16 10 DC0 DLE ^P Data Link Escape
001 0001 021 17 11 DC1 ^Q Device Control 1 (often XON)
001 0010 022 18 12 DC2 ^R Device Control 2
001 0011 023 19 13 DC3 ^S Device Control 3 (often XOFF)
001 0100 024 20 14 DC4 ^T Device Control 4
001 0101 025 21 15 ERR NAK ^U Negative Acknowledgement
001 0110 026 22 16 SYNC SYN ^V Synchronous Idle
001 0111 027 23 17 LEM ETB ^W End of Transmission Block
001 1000 030 24 18 S0 CAN ^X Cancel
001 1001 031 25 19 S1 EM ^Y End of Medium
001 1010 032 26 1A S2 SS SUB ^Z Substitute
001 1011 033 27 1B S3 ESC ^[ \e[j] Escape[k]
001 1100 034 28 1C S4 FS ^\ File Separator
001 1101 035 29 1D S5 GS ^] Group Separator
001 1110 036 30 1E S6 RS ^^[l] Record Separator
001 1111 037 31 1F S7 US ^_ Unit Separator
111 1111 177 127 7F DEL ^? Delete[m][g]

Other representations might be used by specialist equipment, for example ISO 2047 graphics or hexadecimal numbers.

Printable characters[edit]

Codes 20hex to 7Ehex, known as the printable characters, represent letters, digits, punctuation marks, and a few miscellaneous symbols. There are 95 printable characters in total.[n]

Code 20hex, the "space" character, denotes the space between words, as produced by the space bar of a keyboard. Since the space character is considered an invisible graphic (rather than a control character)[3]: 223 [10] it is listed in the table below instead of in the previous section.

Code 7Fhex corresponds to the non-printable "delete" (DEL) control character and is therefore omitted from this chart; it is covered in the previous section's chart. Earlier versions of ASCII used the up arrow instead of the caret (5Ehex) and the left arrow instead of the underscore (5Fhex).[6][50]

Binary Oct Dec Hex Glyph
1963 1965 1967
010 0000 040 32 20  space
010 0001 041 33 21 !
010 0010 042 34 22 "
010 0011 043 35 23 #
010 0100 044 36 24 $
010 0101 045 37 25 %
010 0110 046 38 26 &
010 0111 047 39 27 '
010 1000 050 40 28 (
010 1001 051 41 29 )
010 1010 052 42 2A *
010 1011 053 43 2B +
010 1100 054 44 2C ,
010 1101 055 45 2D -
010 1110 056 46 2E .
010 1111 057 47 2F /
011 0000 060 48 30 0
011 0001 061 49 31 1
011 0010 062 50 32 2
011 0011 063 51 33 3
011 0100 064 52 34 4
011 0101 065 53 35 5
011 0110 066 54 36 6
011 0111 067 55 37 7
011 1000 070 56 38 8
011 1001 071 57 39 9
011 1010 072 58 3A :
011 1011 073 59 3B ;
011 1100 074 60 3C <
011 1101 075 61 3D =
011 1110 076 62 3E >
011 1111 077 63 3F ?
100 0000 100 64 40 @ ` @
100 0001 101 65 41 A
100 0010 102 66 42 B
100 0011 103 67 43 C
100 0100 104 68 44 D
100 0101 105 69 45 E
100 0110 106 70 46 F
100 0111 107 71 47 G
100 1000 110 72 48 H
100 1001 111 73 49 I
100 1010 112 74 4A J
100 1011 113 75 4B K
100 1100 114 76 4C L
100 1101 115 77 4D M
100 1110 116 78 4E N
100 1111 117 79 4F O
101 0000 120 80 50 P
101 0001 121 81 51 Q
101 0010 122 82 52 R
101 0011 123 83 53 S
101 0100 124 84 54 T
101 0101 125 85 55 U
101 0110 126 86 56 V
101 0111 127 87 57 W
101 1000 130 88 58 X
101 1001 131 89 59 Y
101 1010 132 90 5A Z
101 1011 133 91 5B [
101 1100 134 92 5C \ ~ \
101 1101 135 93 5D ]
101 1110 136 94 5E ^
101 1111 137 95 5F _
110 0000 140 96 60 @ `
110 0001 141 97 61 a
110 0010 142 98 62 b
110 0011 143 99 63 c
110 0100 144 100 64 d
110 0101 145 101 65 e
110 0110 146 102 66 f
110 0111 147 103 67 g
110 1000 150 104 68 h
110 1001 151 105 69 i
110 1010 152 106 6A j
110 1011 153 107 6B k
110 1100 154 108 6C l
110 1101 155 109 6D m
110 1110 156 110 6E n
110 1111 157 111 6F o
111 0000 160 112 70 p
111 0001 161 113 71 q
111 0010 162 114 72 r
111 0011 163 115 73 s
111 0100 164 116 74 t
111 0101 165 117 75 u
111 0110 166 118 76 v
111 0111 167 119 77 w
111 1000 170 120 78 x
111 1001 171 121 79 y
111 1010 172 122 7A z
111 1011 173 123 7B {
111 1100 174 124 7C ACK ¬ |
111 1101 175 125 7D }
111 1110 176 126 7E ESC | ~


ASCII was first used commercially during 1963 as a seven-bit teleprinter code for American Telephone & Telegraph's TWX (TeletypeWriter eXchange) network. TWX originally used the earlier five-bit ITA2, which was also used by the competing Telex teleprinter system. Bob Bemer introduced features such as the escape sequence.[5] His British colleague Hugh McGregor Ross helped to popularize this work – according to Bemer, "so much so that the code that was to become ASCII was first called the Bemer–Ross Code in Europe".[51] Because of his extensive work on ASCII, Bemer has been called "the father of ASCII".[52]

On March 11, 1968, US President Lyndon B. Johnson mandated that all computers purchased by the United States Federal Government support ASCII, stating:[53][54][55]

I have also approved recommendations of the Secretary of Commerce [Luther H. Hodges] regarding standards for recording the Standard Code for Information Interchange on magnetic tapes and paper tapes when they are used in computer operations. All computers and related equipment configurations brought into the Federal Government inventory on and after July 1, 1969, must have the capability to use the Standard Code for Information Interchange and the formats prescribed by the magnetic tape and paper tape standards when these media are used.

ASCII was the most common character encoding on the World Wide Web until December 2007, when UTF-8 encoding surpassed it; UTF-8 is backward compatible with ASCII.[56][57][58]

Variants and derivations[edit]

As computer technology spread throughout the world, different standards bodies and corporations developed many variations of ASCII to facilitate the expression of non-English languages that used Roman-based alphabets. One could class some of these variations as "ASCII extensions", although some misuse that term to represent all variants, including those that do not preserve ASCII's character-map in the 7-bit range. Furthermore, the ASCII extensions have also been mislabelled as ASCII.

7-bit codes[edit]

From early in its development,[59] ASCII was intended to be just one of several national variants of an international character code standard.

Other international standards bodies have ratified character encodings such as ISO 646 (1967) that are identical or nearly identical to ASCII, with extensions for characters outside the English alphabet and symbols used outside the United States, such as the symbol for the United Kingdom's pound sterling (£); e.g. with code page 1104. Almost every country needed an adapted version of ASCII, since ASCII suited the needs of only the US and a few other countries. For example, Canada had its own version that supported French characters.

Many other countries developed variants of ASCII to include non-English letters (e.g. é, ñ, ß, Ł), currency symbols (e.g. £, ¥), etc. See also YUSCII (Yugoslavia).

It would share most characters in common, but assign other locally useful characters to several code points reserved for "national use". However, the four years that elapsed between the publication of ASCII-1963 and ISO's first acceptance of an international recommendation during 1967[60] caused ASCII's choices for the national use characters to seem to be de facto standards for the world, causing confusion and incompatibility once other countries did begin to make their own assignments to these code points.

ISO/IEC 646, like ASCII, is a 7-bit character set. It does not make any additional codes available, so the same code points encoded different characters in different countries. Escape codes were defined to indicate which national variant applied to a piece of text, but they were rarely used, so it was often impossible to know what variant to work with and, therefore, which character a code represented, and in general, text-processing systems could cope with only one variant anyway.

Because the bracket and brace characters of ASCII were assigned to "national use" code points that were used for accented letters in other national variants of ISO/IEC 646, a German, French, or Swedish, etc. programmer using their national variant of ISO/IEC 646, rather than ASCII, had to write, and thus read, something such as

ä aÄiÜ = 'Ön'; ü

instead of

{ a[i] = '\n'; }

C trigraphs were created to solve this problem for ANSI C, although their late introduction and inconsistent implementation in compilers limited their use. Many programmers kept their computers on ASCII, so plain-text in Swedish, German etc. (for example, in e-mail or Usenet) contained "{, }" and similar variants in the middle of words, something those programmers got used to. For example, a Swedish programmer mailing another programmer asking if they should go for lunch, could get "N{ jag har sm|rg}sar" as the answer, which should be "Nä jag har smörgåsar" meaning "No I've got sandwiches".

In Japan and Korea, still as of the 2020s, a variation of ASCII is used, in which the backslash (5C hex) is rendered as ¥ (a Yen sign, in Japan) or ₩ (a Won sign, in Korea). This means that, for example, the file path C:\Users\Smith is shown as C:¥Users¥Smith (in Japan) or C:₩Users₩Smith (in Korea).

In Europe, teletext character sets, which are variants of ASCII, are used for broadcast TV subtitles, defined by World System Teletext and broadcast using the DVB-TXT standard for embedding teletext into DVB transmissions.[61] In the case that the subtitles were initially authored for teletext and converted, the derived subtitle formats are constrained to the same character sets.

8-bit codes[edit]

Eventually, as 8-, 16-, and 32-bit (and later 64-bit) computers began to replace 12-, 18-, and 36-bit computers as the norm, it became common to use an 8-bit byte to store each character in memory, providing an opportunity for extended, 8-bit relatives of ASCII. In most cases these developed as true extensions of ASCII, leaving the original character-mapping intact, but adding additional character definitions after the first 128 (i.e., 7-bit) characters. ASCII itself remained a seven-bit code: the term "extended ASCII" has no official status.

For some countries, 8-bit extensions of ASCII were developed that included support for characters used in local languages; for example, ISCII for India and VISCII for Vietnam. Kaypro CP/M computers used the "upper" 128 characters for the Greek alphabet.[citation needed]

Even for markets where it was not necessary to add many characters to support additional languages, manufacturers of early home computer systems often developed their own 8-bit extensions of ASCII to include additional characters, such as box-drawing characters, semigraphics, and video game sprites. Often, these additions also replaced control characters (index 0 to 31, as well as index 127) with even more platform-specific extensions. In other cases, the extra bit was used for some other purpose, such as toggling inverse video; this approach was used by ATASCII, an extension of ASCII developed by Atari.

Most ASCII extensions are based on ASCII-1967 (the current standard), but some extensions are instead based on the earlier ASCII-1963. For example, PETSCII, which was developed by Commodore International for their 8-bit systems, is based on ASCII-1963. Likewise, many Sharp MZ character sets are based on ASCII-1963.

IBM defined code page 437 for the IBM PC, replacing the control characters with graphic symbols such as smiley faces, and mapping additional graphic characters to the upper 128 positions.[62] Digital Equipment Corporation developed the Multinational Character Set (DEC-MCS) for use in the popular VT220 terminal as one of the first extensions designed more for international languages than for block graphics. Apple defined Mac OS Roman for the Macintosh and Adobe defined the PostScript Standard Encoding for PostScript; both sets contained "international" letters, typographic symbols and punctuation marks instead of graphics, more like modern character sets.

The ISO/IEC 8859 standard (derived from the DEC-MCS) provided a standard that most systems copied (or at least were based on, when not copied exactly). A popular further extension designed by Microsoft, Windows-1252 (often mislabeled as ISO-8859-1), added the typographic punctuation marks needed for traditional text printing. ISO-8859-1, Windows-1252, and the original 7-bit ASCII were the most common character encoding methods on the World Wide Web until 2008, when UTF-8 overtook them.[57]

ISO/IEC 4873 introduced 32 additional control codes defined in the 80–9F hexadecimal range, as part of extending the 7-bit ASCII encoding to become an 8-bit system.[63]


Unicode and the ISO/IEC 10646 Universal Character Set (UCS) have a much wider array of characters and their various encoding forms have begun to supplant ISO/IEC 8859 and ASCII rapidly in many environments. While ASCII is limited to 128 characters, Unicode and the UCS support more characters by separating the concepts of unique identification (using natural numbers called code points) and encoding (to 8-, 16-, or 32-bit binary formats, called UTF-8, UTF-16, and UTF-32, respectively).

ASCII was incorporated into the Unicode (1991) character set as the first 128 symbols, so the 7-bit ASCII characters have the same numeric codes in both sets. This allows UTF-8 to be backward compatible with 7-bit ASCII, as a UTF-8 file containing only ASCII characters is identical to an ASCII file containing the same sequence of characters. Even more importantly, forward compatibility is ensured as software that recognizes only 7-bit ASCII characters as special and does not alter bytes with the highest bit set (as is often done to support 8-bit ASCII extensions such as ISO-8859-1) will preserve UTF-8 data unchanged.[64]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e The 128 characters of the 7-bit ASCII character set are divided into eight 16-character groups called sticks 0–7, associated with the three most-significant bits.[15] Depending on the horizontal or vertical representation of the character map, sticks can correspond with either table rows or columns.
  2. ^ The Unicode characters from the "Control Pictures" area U+2400 to U+2421 reserved for representing control characters when it is necessary to print or display them rather than have them perform their intended function. Some browsers may not display these properly.
  3. ^ Caret notation is often used to represent control characters on a terminal. On most text terminals, holding down the Ctrl key while typing the second character will type the control character. Sometimes the shift key is not needed, for instance ^@ may be typable with just Ctrl+2 or Ctrl+Space.
  4. ^ Character escape sequences in C programming language and many other languages influenced by it, such as Java and Perl (though not all implementations necessarily support all escape sequences).
  5. ^ Entering any Single-Byte character is supported by escaping its octal value. However, because of the role of NULL in C-strings, this case see particular use.
  6. ^ The Backspace character can also be entered by pressing the ← Backspace key on some systems.
  7. ^ a b The ambiguity of Backspace is due to early terminals designed assuming the main use of the keyboard would be to manually punch paper tape while not connected to a computer. To delete the previous character, one had to back up the paper tape punch, which for mechanical and simplicity reasons was a button on the punch itself and not the keyboard, then type the rubout character. They therefore placed a key producing rubout at the location used on typewriters for backspace. When systems used these terminals and provided command-line editing, they had to use the "rubout" code to perform a backspace, and often did not interpret the backspace character (they might echo "^H" for backspace). Other terminals not designed for paper tape made the key at this location produce Backspace, and systems designed for these used that character to back up. Since the delete code often produced a backspace effect, this also forced terminal manufacturers to make any Delete key produce something other than the Delete character.
  8. ^ The Tab character can also be entered by pressing the Tab ↹ key on most systems.
  9. ^ The Carriage Return character can also be entered by pressing the ↵ Enter or Return key on most systems.
  10. ^ The \e escape sequence is not part of ISO C and many other language specifications. However, it is understood by several compilers, including GCC.
  11. ^ The Escape character can also be entered by pressing the Esc key on some systems.
  12. ^ ^^ means Ctrl+^ (pressing the "Ctrl" and caret keys).
  13. ^ The Delete character can sometimes be entered by pressing the ← Backspace key on some systems.
  14. ^ Printed out, the characters are:


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]