Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

1) In information technology, a character is a printable symbol having phonetic or pictographic meaning and usually forming part of a word of text, depicting a numeral, or expressing grammatical punctuation. In information technology today, a character is generally one of a limited number of symbols, including the letters of a particular language's alphabet, the numerals in the decimal number system, and certain special symbols such as the ampersand (&) and "atsign" (@).

Several standards of computer encoding have been developed for characters. The most commonly used in personal computers is ASCII. IBM mainframe systems use EBCDIC. A new standard, Unicode, is supported by later Windows systems.

2) A distinction is sometimes made between a character and a glyph. In this distinction, a character can be distinguished from other characters in terms of meaning and sound and a glyph is the graphic image used to portray the character. In different implementations, a character can have more than one possible glyph, and a glyph can represent more than one possible character.

This was last updated in April 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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