As briefly mentioned in the earlier sections, encodings such as ASCII, EBCDIC and their variants do not have a sufficient number of characters to be able to encode alphanumeric data of all forms, scripts and languages. As a result, these encodings do not permit multilingual computer processing. In addition, these encodings suffer from incompatibility. Two different encodings may use the same number for two different characters or different numbers for the same characters. For example, code 4E (in hex) represents the upper-case letter ‘N’ in ASCII code and the plus sign ‘+’ in the EBCDIC code. Unicode, developed jointly by the Unicode Consortium and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is the most complete character encoding scheme that allows text of all forms and languages to be encoded for use by computers. It not only enables the users to handle practically any language and script but also supports a comprehensive set of mathematical and technical symbols, greatly simplifying any scientific information exchange. The Unicode standard has been adopted by such industry leaders as HP, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Unisys, Sun, Sybase, SAP and many more.
Unicode and ISO-10646 Standards
Before we get on to describe salient features of Unicode, it may be mentioned that another standard similar in intent and implementation to Unicode is the ISO-10646. While Unicode is the brainchild of the Unicode Consortium, a consortium of manufacturers (initially mostly US based) of multilingual software, ISO-10646 is the project of the International Organization for Standardization. Although both organizations publish their respective standards independently, they have agreed to maintain compatibility between the code tables of Unicode and ISO-10646 and closely coordinate any further extensions.