Character sets

Every word is made up of symbols or characters. When you press a key on a keyboard, a number is generated that represents the symbol for that key. This is called a character code. A complete collection of characters is a character set.

The letter "A" on a keyboard converts to 01000001 in binaryNumbers are generated that represent keyboard symbols
Keyboard with Japanese characters
A keyboard with Japanese characters

Different languages use different keyboard layouts. For example, a French keyboard has an é. If we were writing in Japanese or Arabic, we would need even more choices of characters.

Standard QWERTY keyboard
A standard QWERTY keyboard

In theory, anyone can create a character set. But it is important that computers can communicate so we use global standards for character sets.

You can check what character encoding your web browser is using by looking in your browser settings:

  • Mozilla Firefox > Tools > Page Info: Encoding
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer > View > Encoding
  • Google Chrome > Tools > Encoding