How ASCII Characters Work

Thanks to the ASCII code it is possible to insert special characters and symbols in a text. Find out in this article its origins, what it is and how to use it.

How many times have you wasted time looking for special characters such as €, { while writing a text on the PC? The solution is very simple: the ASCII code. Have you never heard of it? It is a code for character encoding, thanks to which you can insert special characters and symbols in your texts, using convenient keyboard shortcuts or the classic copy-paste.

In this article we explain what ASCII Code is and how you can use it on Windows PC, MAC and mobile devices. Take a few minutes and read the article to find out everything you need to know about ASCII Code.

The Origins of ASCII Code

We can't go into the world of ASCII Code without knowing its history. The acronym ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. This is the name chosen to indicate the 7-bit character encoding system initially used in computers and later implemented in the operating systems of computers and other computing devices. And it is thanks to this coding system of characters and symbols and its subsequent evolutions if today we can write emails and texts and we can enrich our messages with emoji. The ASCII code was invented in 1961 by Bob Bemer an engineer at IBM and was published in 1968 by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The 7-bit system allowed for the representation of 128 characters and the ability to give particular commands to the computer.

To meet more complex needs, a bit was added later, which allowed the ASCII Code to be extended to 256 characters. The 8-bit system is known as extended ASCII. Currently the most used coding system globally is Unicode which represents the evolution of the ASCII code. It is a code that can be programmed with 32, 16 and 8 bit variables. Unlike the ASCII code, Unicode is able to encode all languages and allows you to insert not only numerous mathematical symbols but also the characters of the Braille alphabet, ideograms and the cute and well-known faces (emoji) that we use every day on Facebook and Whatsapp. At this point we can't help but introduce UFT-8, the code designated as the successor of ASCII. UFT-8 è la codifica principale di Unicode per Internet che copre tutti i caratteri alfabetici di quasi tutte le lingue del mondo.

Che cos’è il codice ASCII e come funziona?

Il codice ASCII standard è costituito da 128 caratteri, non tutti alfanumerici. I primi 32 caratteri servono infatti per inviare comandi. Per comprenderne il funzionamento, facciamo un passo indietro. I processi di un PC si basano sul sistema binario: 1 e 0 determinano i processi. Il codice ASCII si basa su questo sistema. Essendo basato su 7 bit, ogni carattere corrisponde ad una sequenza di 7 cifre di 0 ed 1. Il codice esteso è basato su 8 bit, il bit aggiuntivo veniva principalmente utilizzato per fini di verifica e per aggiungere altri caratteri al codice. I carattere ASCII standard si suddividono in 4 gruppi.

  • Caratteri di comando (da 0 a 31, 127): si tratta di caratteri non stampabili e servono per inviare comandi al PC. Un esempio è il comando per spostare il cursore uno spazio indietro. Il codice a 7 bit in questo caso è 0001000 e lo stesso comando si può inviare tenendo premuto il tasto ALT della tastiera e premendo in successione sul tastierino numerico i numeri 0 e 8. Attualmente non utilizziamo il codice binario o la combinazione di tasti indicata, ci basta premere semplicemente il tasto backspace.
  • Caratteri speciali: da 32 a 47, da 58 a 64, da 91 a 96 e da 123 a 126: sono caratteri speciali stampabili che non corrispondono a numeri o lettere. Si tratta dei segni di punteggiatura. Curiosità: in questo gruppo rientra anche lo spazio, che sebbene non visibile è stampabile. Ed è per questo motivo che non rientra nel gruppo dei caratteri da comando.
  • Per le cifre: da 30 a 30: comprende le 10 cifre arabe da 0 a 9.
  • Per le lettere: da 65 a 90 lettere maiuscole e da 97 a 122 lettere minuscole.

Come già indicato per inserire il carattere prescelto basta tener premuto il tasto ALT, digitare il codice corrispondente numerico e poi rilasciare il tasto ALT. Do you want to enter the @ snail? Hold down ALT+64 and then release it.

How to use ASCII Code?

Now let's see how to enter all those characters and symbols that are not present on the keyboard of computers and mobile devices. It should be noted that the shortcuts we will see below are based on the most widely used encoding system globally, namely Unicode, which contains the characters of the ASCII code but has added others as well. Here are the instructions for Windows PC, Mac and Android and iOS devices.

Inserting special characters on Windows

If you have Windows as your operating system, you can insert characters that are not present on your keyboard using the Character Map. Just click on the Start button, type the word "charmap" in the search field and click on the result. Your screen will show the Windows character map complete with all alphanumeric characters and symbols loaded into the system.

Scroll through the map and locate the characters/symbols you are interested in, to insert them all you have to do is select them, copy and paste them into the text file. To copy multiple characters and symbols from the map, just double click on the ones you are interested in to select them all and copy them. To insert them into the text, use the shortcut CTRL+V and you're done. If you want to use a different font, click on the drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

In addition to calling up the Character Map, you can also use the shortcuts on the numeric keypad to enter special characters. The method is the same as before: press ALT+number code. In this way the decoding system will automatically transform the code into the corresponding character/symbol. Con la codifica Unicode è possibile inserire nei testi anche le popolari emoji. Qualche esempio carino?

  • La faccina sorridente ☺ corrisponde alla combinazione: ALT + 1.
  • Lo smile con gli occhi a cuoricino si ottiene premendo Alt +128525.
  • la nota musicale ♪: Alt + 15.

Inserimento caratteri speciali su MAC

Sul Mac puoi richiamare la Mappa dei caratteri in due modi:

  • utilizzando i tasti della tastiera: premi ctrl+cmd+spazio;
  • cliccando su Preferenze di Sistema> Tastiera > e selezionando "Mostra visori tastiera ed emoji nella barra dei menu". In alto a destra comparirà un simbolo, cliccaci su e seleziona la voce: mostra visore tastiera.

In entrambi i modi visualizzerai una tastiera. Cliccando sui tasti non scrivi nulla. Il compito di questa tastiera è soltanto mostrare come ottenere un simbolo o un carattere speciale. If you press shift you will see uppercase characters and if you press Alt you will see special characters on the keyboard. If the special character you want to add to your text is missing from the keyboard or you want to add an emoji, click on the symbol shown above and then on "Character Viewer". On the left you'll find all the symbols and characters you can insert: emoji, arrows, Latin letters, brackets, pictograms, punctuation, mathematical symbols, and currencies.

Special Characters on Mobile Devices

For Android smartphones and iOS devices, the situation is very similar, although the number of special characters and symbols on the built-in keyboard is more limited than on Windows PCs and Macs. On the Android and iOS keyboard, if you notice, for some keys there are numbers in addition to alphabetic characters. Usually it's at the top of the keyboard: the Q key corresponds to 1, the W to 2, the E to 3 and so on. The same applies to accented letters: for example, to enter the letter "è", press the key "E" for a long time, for "à" the key "A", etc. To access other special characters such as @, *, #, just press the key 123. To access other special characters and symbols such as %, {, }, ^, ∆ etc. To call up emoji, you usually just have to click on the ? icon.

ASCII code: not only texts but also art

Yes, that's right. There are those who have well thought of using the ASCII code in a creative way giving birth to ASCII Art. In fact everything was born to respond to the need to print images that with the first models of printers was not possible. For this reason it was then thought to use alphabetical characters as graphic signs to give life to original graphic illustrations. Type in ASCII Art on Google and you will understand what we are talking about.

From rather simple and elementary drawings to the reproduction of world-famous works of art such as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa or The Great Wave of Kanagawa. Would you like to try your hand at something similar but have neither patience nor artistic flair? Sites and apps for Android and iOS come to your rescue. Just a quick search on Google or in your marketplace to find and download programs and apps that transform images into representations with ASCII code characters.