Re: DEC multilingual code page, ISO 8859-1, etc.

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Fri Mar 24 2000 - 09:55:00 EST

Chris Pratley <> wrote:

> When I played around on Atari400/800 and Apple II computers in the late
> 70s early 80s, those all had their own character sets just like DOS
> did. It doesn't seem to bother anyone now that those vendors made up
> their owns sets of characters. I remember at that time no one could
> share files because you couldn't even read each other's disks let alone
> character encodings, and modems were 300baud and only used by the very
> few. Sharing data across computer systems was just not part of the
> design spec. And if we had the benefit of hindsight, there are a bunch
> more things I would fix before the conflict of windows codepages with
> iso-2022-jp in plain-text data transfer.

ATASCII was Atari's mutation of ASCII for the 400/800 and successors, in
which not only were there deviations from ASCII not only in those G0
characters designated for "international use," but also graphics
characters in the C0 zone -- similar to CP 437, but these were much more
commonly used characters (line-drawing characters or accented letters,
depending on which ATASCII "code page" you selected). Newline was 0x9B,
equivalent to ESC (0x1B) with the high bit set. 0x0D and 0x0A were
nothing special. Imagine the fun for those of us who did have those 300
baud modems! Atari did switch to normal ASCII for their 16-bit machines
(beginning with the 520ST).

You can't convert completely between ATASCII and Unicode, because many
of the line-drawing and "geometric shapes" characters are not in Unicode.
I was thinking about proposing them, but since many of the characters are
the same as in Frank da Cruz's "terminal graphics" proposal, which was
apparently rejected despite its greater "real-world" usefulness, I felt
there was little hope.

BTW, the same situation applies to the graphics characters in the strange
and wonderful character set used by the Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81 (aka
Timex-Sinclair 1000), in which space was 0x00 and the digits 0-9 at
0x1C through 0x25 were followed immediately by the capital letters A-Z at
0x26 through 0x3F (which simplified the display of numbers in hex, about
the only thing that blasted machine ever did simplify). Many of the
ZX81's line- and box-drawing characters are not in Unicode either.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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