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Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold

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Chapter 20. ASCII and a Cast of Characters

Digital computer memory stores only bits, so anything that we want to work with on the computer must be stored in the form of bits. We've already seen how bits can represent numbers and machine code. The next challenge must be text. After all, the great bulk of the accumulated information of this world is in the form of text, and our libraries are full of books and magazines and newspapers. Although we'd eventually like to use our computers to store sounds and pictures and movies, text is a much easier place to begin.

To represent text in digital form, we must develop some kind of system in which each letter corresponds to a unique code. Numbers and punctuation also occur in text, so codes for these must ...

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