Re: Hexadecimal digits?

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sun Nov 09 2003 - 12:37:27 EST

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    From: "Simon Butcher" <>
    > However personally, when dealing with a octet, or an arbitrary number
    > of octets, I believe the byte-pictures would be much easier to deal with
    > (especially when dealing with a lot of raw data).

    Except that it would require 256 new codepoints, instead of just 6 for the
    proposed HEX DIGIT characters.

    What is complicate, when dealing with lot of raw data, to convert it to
    nibbles then coded with numeric code points, rather than converting
    bytes to code points? You just add a shift and mask operation to output
    2 code points rather than just adding each byte as an offset of a base
    code point. Still, you need to convert your raw data to suitable code
    points to display the HEX BYTE characters.

    In fact this shift & mask operation is coded since long and does not
    cause any problem to any software, even for performance reasons,
    as you still need to allocate an external buffer to store the converted
    HEX character sequence.

    What you propose is NOT a complementary set of digits for base 16,
    but a complete new set of numbers in base 256, so that a glyph
    like [00] will be displayed instead of just 0 (this is a disunification
    of all the existing ASCII digits, as if it was a new script using its own
    numbering system)...

    Other historic numbering systems are used today and better suited
    for representation, notably the compound base (12, 5), when
    people where counting the first digit in one hand with the first finger
    pointing on the 3 phallanges of the 4 other fingers, and the other
    hand was used to count the second order digit by raising each of
    its 5 fingers.

    This tradition has survived when counting time
    (seconds in minute, hours in day, months in year), and it was an
    enhancement of the Roman system where people were counting
    fingers (not phallanges) in a compound base (5,2).

    The other historic numbering system used a similar compound
    base (20, 5), and still survives in the French spelling (in France) of
    base numbers 60 and 80 (where it is explicit in its name
    "quatre-vingt"). It comes from a medieval tradition, where all
    subdivisions of 100 was not 10, but 20, and there were distinctive
    names for all numbers from 1 to 19, added to the base-20
    subdivision multiple.

    Going to base 10 has come very late, when the zero digit was
    finally admitted in Europe and borrowed from the Arabic "zifer"
    tradition, which created a specific glyph for the 0 (first it was a
    simple dot), this inheriting from the Indian tradition where 0 was
    represented by a space (but with possible confusion between
    101 and 1001, as they where both written as "1 1", and
    interpreted contextually).

    The _number_ 0 (and negative numbers) only came after
    (before, it was simply not written, or a word was used...), when
    merchants needed to align their figures in tables to facilitate their
    accounting work and were not satisfied by leaving a blank space.

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