ARCHIVED: What are character sets?
A character that appears on your computer screen, whether it's a number, a letter, or a symbol, is the graphical interpretation of a number. For a computer to know what characters to display, it refers to a database that associates a single character with each number. This database is called a character set.
Not all computers agree about what number applies to what character, so two users with incompatible character sets will have difficulty sharing information. For plain text messages written in English, this rarely happens, but for more complex documents such as those using extended characters, especially non-European characters, it is a major concern.
For more about character sets, see the tutorial on character code issues maintained by Jukka Korpela.
Last modified on January 07, 2013.