Article on the History of Character Codes, Starting in the 19th Century


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Hey everyone,

In wandering the Internet today I came across this interesting article on the history of character codes. It’s long, but thanks to frequent graphics I think you can skim to still get a sense of how much bit-encoding systems have changed over the last 140+ years. Here’s an example of one from 1877:

The bigger takeaways here in my eyes are that there’s no single right answer for how to map characters to binary patterns. In every case they’re creating a system that fits at the intersection of what technology would allow and how people needed to use it. There’s also some interesting stories about the challenges created when there’s no standardized codes (how can we communicate?!) and the surprising politics involved in that standardization process.

Happy reading!