Glossary definition of ASCII

Also known as: American Standard Code for Information Interchange

The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is a standard coding system developed by the USA Standards Institute. ASCII is universally used to represent letters, numbers, punctuation marks, symbols and control codes, which makes it possible to pass data between computers and within communication systems (e.g. to mobile phones).

Digital equipment can only understand numbers, and ASCII code gives every symbol or character a unique number in order to identify it. The coding system is efficient, with each character being represented by a single byte. There is a basic character set of 128 codes numbered 0 to 127 (which uses 7 bits per character), or an extended character set of 256 codes numbered 0 to 255 (which uses 8 bits per character).

ASCII files appear as unformatted plain text, i.e. without any tabs, bold, italics, or other codes that word processors introduce when formatting text. ASCII files are the standard text format for SMS messages.