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Programming Windows®, Fifth Edition by Charles Petzold

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A Brief History of Character Sets

It is uncertain when human beings began speaking, but writing seems to be about six thousand years old. Early writing was pictographic in nature. Alphabets—in which individual letters correspond to spoken sounds—came about just three thousand years ago. Although the various written languages of the world served fine for some time, several nineteenth-century inventors saw a need for something more. When Samuel F. B. Morse developed the telegraph between 1838 and 1854, he also devised a code to use with it. Each letter in the alphabet corresponded to a series of short and long pulses (dots and dashes). There was no distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters, but numbers and punctuation marks had their own ...

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