Re: Terminology question re ASCII

From: Philippe Verdy <>
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2013 15:48:53 +0100

"8-bit ASCII" is not so clear !

The reason for that is the historic documentation of many softwares,
notably for the BASIC language, or similar like Excel, or even more recent
languages like PHP, offering functions like "CHR$(number)" and
"ASC(string)" to convert a string to the numeric "8-bit ASCII" code of its
first "character" or the reverse. The effective encoding of strings was in
fact not specified at all and could be any 8-bit encoding used on the

Only in more recent versions of implementtions of these languages, they
specify that the encoding of their strings is now based on Unicode (most
often UTF-16, so that 8-bit values now produce the same result as
ISO-8859-1), but this is not enforced if a "compatibility" working mode was
kept (e.g. in PHP which still uses unspecified 8-bit encodings for its
strings in most of its API, or in Python that distinguishes types for 8-bit
encoded strings and Unicode-encoded strings).

2013/10/29 Mark Davis ☕ <>

> Normally the term ASCII just refers to the 7-bit form. What is sometimes
> called "8-bit ASCII" is the same as ISO Latin 1. If you want to be
> completely clear, you can say "7-bit ASCII".
> Mark <>
> *
> *
> *— Il meglio è l’inimico del bene —*
> **
> On Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 5:12 AM, <> wrote:
>> Quick question on terminology use concerning a legacy encoding:
>> If one refers to "plain ASCII," or "plain ASCII text" or "...
>> characters," should this be taken strictly as referring to the 7-bit basic
>> characters, or might it encompass characters that might appear in an 8-bit
>> character set (per the so-called "extended ASCII")?
>> I've always used the term "ASCII" in the 7-bit, 128 character sense, and
>> modifying it with "plain" seems to reinforce that sense. (Although "plain
>> text" in my understanding actually refers to lack of formatting.)
>> Reason for asking is encountering a reference to "plain ASCII" describing
>> text that clearly (by presence of accented characters) would be 8-bit.
>> The context is one of many situations where in attaching a document to an
>> email, it is advisable to include an unformatted text version of the
>> document in the body of the email. Never mind that the latter is probably
>> in UTF-8 anyway(?) - the issue here is the terminology.
>> TIA for any feedback.
>> Don Osborn
>> Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
Received on Tue Oct 29 2013 - 09:52:07 CDT

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