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Multicode: A Truly Multilingual Approach to Text Encoding
April 1997 (vol. 30 no. 4)
pp. 37-43

The global market for software written in native languages has spurred the interest in multilingual text encoding. Although ASCII is the accepted standard and works well for English, its 7-bit structure provides codes for only 128 characters, a number insufficient to represent some languages. The limited number of character codes also presents problems when you want to mix languages.

Unicode is one proposed solution. A consortium met in 1991 to develop and promote Unicode. They chose a 16-bit structure and, for simplicity, did not include information on what language the code represents. Although this does provide a general, comprehensive encoding structure, Unicode's attempt to unify the character representation for all languages can lead to unwieldy files and more work for programmers.

Because of these problems, the author created Multicode in 1996. Its most important feature is the use of multiple character sets, each of which can represent a particular language. Multicode allows 8-bit representations-adequate for most languages-as well as the 16-bit representations required for languages with more characters, such as Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Through switch characters, Multicode can support files that incorporate more than one language.

Citation:
Muhammad F. Mudawwar, "Multicode: A Truly Multilingual Approach to Text Encoding," Computer, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 37-43, April 1997, doi:10.1109/2.585152
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