What Is Character

Table of Contents

Introduction

There’s more to characters than just their role in games. In information technology and language usage, characters are printable symbols that carry pictographic or phonetic meaning. Typically found within words or text passages, they serve purposes like expressing grammatical punctuation or representing numerals.

What is Character ?

A character, also known as a char, is a visual representation of numbers, symbols or text. For example, the letter N is considered a single character and is displayed below. In computer terms, one character is equivalent to one byte, which consists of 8 bits.
In information technology, a character usually refers to one of the symbols we commonly use, such as numbers in the decimal system, letters from an alphabet or special symbols like the atsign (@) and ampersand (&). Over the years, various computer encoding standards have been created to represent characters.

What does the term “character” mean in other contexts?

In computer games it can refer to a player within the game. For instance, when you’re playing a game yourself, you are considered a character or PC (player character). On the other hand, if you come across a character that isn’t controlled by another human player but rather by the computer itself, it’s called a non player character (NPC). To give you an example from World of Warcraft game; take a look at the image below – that’s an example of what we call a game character.
There’s more to characters than just their role in games. In information technology and language usage, characters are printable symbols that carry pictographic or phonetic meaning. Typically found within words or text passages, they serve purposes like expressing grammatical punctuation or representing numerals.
ASCII is widely used in personal computers, while EBCDIC is commonly used in IBM mainframe systems. Additionally, newer Windows systems support Unicode as a standard.

Character string

A character string refers to a group of characters often enclosed within single (‘ ‘) or double (” “) quotes. For example, if you mention the word “California” or ‘California’, it becomes a character string. These strings are represented by bits of code and stored in a single variable. The length of this string variable can be defined specifically or determined programmatically. It’s important to note that character strings don’t represent anything other than themselves and differ from names.
In various computer programs, specific syntax is used to mark character strings, which are defined or dimensioned through programming commands and typically include quotation marks. They are used to store different types of data that describe ASCII characters. In many cases, a single byte represents one character by assigning it a specific value. Depending on the coding conventions used, different protocols such as UTF, Unicode or octet may be employed to identify bytes as the units of operation.

Variable Character Field (Varchar)

A varchar (variable character field) is a data type utilized in programming languages and databases for storing values.
The data can include various types, such as characters, numbers, punctuation marks or spaces. The data type has the capability to store values up to its maximum capacity.The choice of using variable character fields in databases depends on various factors. These fields are primarily used for string operations and as temporary variables. When initializing a varchar field, it is typically set with a current length of zero, while also having a maximum declared length. The current length of the field can range from zero to the maximum declared length, depending on the specific programming language utilized.
One significant advantage of variable character fields is that they avoid unnecessary padding. Unlike fixed length character fields where the field occupies a fixed number of characters regardless of the actual string size, variable character fields only require storage space based on the size of the string itself. This proves beneficial for sorting and searching values since it eliminates any wasted space.
Moreover, certain databases and programming languages automatically remove any excess space before storing data in them.
There may be restrictions on using a variable character field depending on the database or programming language. For example, it might not be suitable as a candidate or primary key and may not function properly with a select statement. However, most relational database management systems do support variable character fields.

Character theory

The concept of character theory, particularly in mathematics and group theory, involves defining a function that relates to the trace of each element’s matrix within a group representation. This character function provides essential information about the representation in a more concise manner compared to the representation itself. Georg Frobenius initially developed his theory of finite groups representations based solely on types of characters, without explicitly using matrix realizations for representations. This approach was possible because the character of a finite group determines its complex representation up to isomorphism.
However, when dealing with representations over a field of positive characteristics, commonly referred to as “modular representation,” there is greater sensitivity. Nonetheless, Richard Brauer has also established a strong theory regarding characters in this context. The characteristics of modular representations are used in many profound theorems concerning the structure of finite groups as evidence for their conclusions.
In terms of computer data transmission, all information is conveyed through electrical signals that are either on or off at any given time. Therefore, before computers can process any form of data such as text, graphics or sound, it must first be converted into binary form through various methods.
It’s obvious that if the data isn’t converted into binary, which is a series of ones and zeros, the computer won’t be able to understand or handle it.
Different methods of representing data

ASCII

A standard code is universally adopted and used by everyone. The ASCII (American Standard for Computer Information Interchange) code specifies the character assigned to each character sequence. Computers need to interpret and handle characters using binary digits (ones and zeros) that the hardware can understand. Although the visual representation may vary, standards have been established to ensure accurate interpretation of characters across different computers. The most widely recognized standard is called ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Each character in ASCII is represented by a single byte since there are a total of 128 characters.

Representation of data and characters

Unlike decimals, integers can be either whole numbers or fixed point numbers with a fixed position for the radix point after the least significant bit in both cases. Unlike real or floating point numbers, where the radix point always remains in the same location, it does not change for integers. It’s important to note that computers process integers and floating point numbers differently. Integers are commonly represented as 8 bit, 16 bit, 32 bit or 64 bit numbers based on their bit length.
In computer engineering and science, it is frequently used to refer to a data type called “integer” that represents a restricted range of mathematical integers. This holds true in both computer engineering and science. Integers can be either signed or unsigned. A byte is specifically defined as consisting of eight bits.

Packing letters into words

Most character sets have fewer symbols than the range of numbers used to form a computer word in most cases. It’s important to note that all two digit octal integers can represent the 64 characters from 00 to 77, which only requires 6 bits. Splitting each 12 bit byte into two 6 bit fields and fitting ten characters into each 60 bit word became second nature. Different machines with varying numbers of characters and bits per word might have different methods for packing characters into words, but generally, there is an allocation of a certain number of bits per character in a specific sequence.

Conclusion

A computer is an electronic device where its cables can either conduct electric current or not. Hence, it recognizes only two states, similar to an on off switch. Surprisingly, this simple binary system is sufficient for ensuring the overall success of computing concepts. Any system capable of representing at least two states can be used for data and character representation. Consider Morse code as an example; it’s a sound transmission system used in telegraphy and other applications. It uses short beeps represented by dots and longer beeps as dashes.
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