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    Statement on USG .xxx Intervention Gains Support | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 100 comments | Search Discussion
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    ITU Says 5-bit Code Conveys 58 Different Signals
    by Anonymous on Sunday September 11 2005, @06:48AM (#16220)
    The legacy of Baudot
    The first binary coded character set was a 5-bit code patented by Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot (1845-1903) in 1874 in connection with his invention of a precursor of the teleprinter. Since the device was operated by electromechanical means, even one further bit would have added significantly to the complexity of the equipment. In 1932 the CCITT (Comité Consultatif International Télégraphique et Téléphonique) standardized a 5-bit code for teleprinters, based on that of Baudot, which is the code of the international telex (teleprinter) network to the present day. This is known as the International Telegraphic Alphabet No.2, also as CCITT code No.2 or simply as the Baudot code. It was last re-issued as ITU-T Recommendation S.1 (1993).

    Locking shifts
    A 5-bit code has room for 32 characters, which is not enough even for the 26 letters A to Z and the ten digits. To get round this, a teleprinter operated by the Baudot code has a shift lock in the manner of a typewriter. This locks 26 "keys", i.e. bit combinations, into one of two modes. In the alphabetic mode they print the letters A to Z. In the numeric mode some of these bit combinations print the ten digits 0 to 9 and various punctuation marks while the remainder operate certain functions such as line feed, carriage return and sounding a bell. The effect of the remaining 6 bit combinations is not affected by the shift lock. Two of these six are used to switch the shift lock between the two modes. In this way the 5-bit code conveys 58 different signals (26 times 2, plus 6).

    National variants
    Right from the beginning it was recognised that different countries had different needs. Although 58 character positions does not give much room for flexibility, the 1932 standard for the Baudot code filled only 55 of the available positions. The remaining three character positions were then available for national use.
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