TIP: The acronym ASCII is pronounced "askee.'

In case you are curious, the ASCII code for uppercase B is 66, for uppercase C is 67, and so forth. Appendix C shows all of the ASCII codes and the characters they represent.

The ASCII character set was developed in the early 1960s, and was eventually adopted by most all computer manufacturers. ASCII is limited however, because it defines codes for only 128 characters. To remedy this, the Unicode character set was developed in the early 1990s. Unicode is an extensive encoding scheme that is compatible with ASCII, but can also represent characters for many of the languages in the world. Today, Unicode is quickly becoming the standard character set used in the computer industry.

Advanced Number Storage

Earlier you read about numbers and how they are stored in memory. While reading that section, perhaps it occurred to you that the binary numbering system can be used to represent only integer numbers, beginning with 0. Negative numbers and real numbers (such as 3.14159) cannot be represented using the simple binary numbering technique we discussed.

Computers are able to store negative numbers and real numbers in memory, but to do so they use encoding schemes along with the binary numbering system. Negative numbers are encoded using a technique known as two's complement, and real numbers are encoded in floating-point notation. You don't need to know how these encoding schemes work, only that they are used to convert negative numbers and real numbers to binary format.

Other Types of

Computers are often referred to as digital devices. The term digital can be used to describe anything that uses binary numbers. Digital data is data that is stored in binary, and a digital device is any device that works with binary data. In this section we have discussed how numbers and characters are stored in binary, but computers also work with many other types of digital data.

For example, consider the pictures that you take with your digital camera. These images are composed of tiny dots of color known as pixels. (The term pixel stands for picture element.) As shown in Figure 1-15, each pixel in an image is converted to a numeric code that represents the pixel's color. The numeric code is stored in memory as a binary number.

Figure 1-15 A digital image is stored in binary format

Figure 1-15 A digital image is stored in binary format

The music that you play on your CD player, iPod or MP3 player is also digital. A digital song is broken into small pieces known as samples. Each sample is converted to a binary number, which can be stored in memory. The more samples that a song is divided into, the more it sounds like the original music when it is played back. A CD quality song is divided into more than 44,000 samples per second!


1.12 What amount of memory is enough to store a letter of the alphabet or a small number?

1.13 What do you call a tiny "switch" that can be set to either on or off?

1.14 In what numbering system are all numeric values written as sequences of 0s and Is?

1.15 What is the purpose of ASCII?

1.16' What encoding scheme is extensive enough to represent the characters of many of the languages in the world?

1.17 What do the terms "digital data" and "digital device" mean?

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