ASCII vs EBCDIC: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. ASCII is a character encoding standard that uses 7-bit binary code to represent text, while EBCDIC is an 8-bit character encoding standard used mainly on IBM mainframe systems.
  2. ASCII codes are compatible with various devices and systems, while EBCDIC is mainly used on IBM mainframe computers.
  3. ASCII uses less memory and is more common in computing, while EBCDIC uses more memory and is less common outside of mainframe systems.

What is ASCII?

ASCII stands for American Standard Code for information exchange. It is an encoding system that utilizes numbers to represent digits, letters, and symbols. It was developed from a telegraph code. It was first used in 1963 as a teleprinter code for American Telephone & telegraph TWX.  Until the year 2007, it was the most accepted code. However, as time passed, many variations of this code existed, including non-English letters, currency, and other symbols.

The digit represents 1,2,3 etc., a, b, c  letters while! $, and # are symbols.  ASCII makes it possible to convert any piece of text into a number and store it.  With numbers, storing information in the Computer’s memory becomes easier. 

ASCII utilizes 7 bits to represent a single letter, symbol, or digit. ASCII uses only short descriptive phrases for every control character. It means a maximum of 128 characters (2 raise to a power). The ASCII value of BB is 66, while the value of b is 98.

Codes 20 hex to E hex, known as the printable characters, denote letters, punctuation marks, digits, and miscellaneous symbols. In all, there are 95 printable characters. Code 20 hex denotes space character while code 7F hex denotes nonprintable character delete.

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What is EBCDIC?

It is an eight-bit binary code developed by IBM in 1963 and primarily utilized in their computer systems. It was devised to extend binary coded decimal interchange code, created to represent code in two zones using 6 bits.

It uniquely represents the letters, symbols, digits, etc., by dividing eight bits of each character into two 4-bit zones. One part of this zone represents the type of character, i.e., Digit, punctuation marks, lower letters, upper letters, etc., while the other part represents the value specific to the surface.

The most common code newline convention with EBCDIC is NEL (following line) code between the two lines. There are many variations of original EBCDIC code pages for utilization in different parts of the world. This can be used for many non-Latin languages such as Korean, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, etc.  It was also designed as a source of many jokes. The 1979 computer game series mentions references to EBCDIC codes several times. 

Difference Between ASCII and EBCDIC

  1. ASCII represents 128 characters, while EBCDIC represents 256 characters.
  2. ASCII arranges characters in consecutive order. On the other hand, EBCDIC groups 9 characters at a time.
  3. ASCII is more efficient and is used in telecommunication and electronic devices. On the other hand, EBCDIC is less efficient and is used primarily for IBM-based systems such as IBM mainframe and IBM midrange computer operating systems.
  4. At the same time, ASCII is mainly utilized in programming, data conversions, graphic arts, text files, etc.; EBCDIC is only utilized for a few IBM systems and works by forming groups of 9 characters simultaneously.
  5. ASCII is a 7-bit utilizing an encoding system that is compatible with most Unicode. On the other hand, EBCDIC is an 8-bit using an encoding scheme that is not compatible with most Unicode.
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Comparison Between ASCII and EBCDIC

Parameter of ComparisonASCIIEBCDIC
DefinitionASCII is a character encoding for electronic communicationEBCDIC is an eight-bit character encoding used mainly on IBM mainframe and midrange computer operating systems.
BitsUtilizes 7 bits to represent a character.It utilizes 8 bits to represent the character
Full formAmerican standard code for information interchangeExtended binary coded decimal interchange code.
EfficiencyMore efficientLess efficient
CompatibilityIt is compatible with modern encodings, such as Unicode.It is not compatible with modern encodings.

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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10 thoughts on “ASCII vs EBCDIC: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I’ve never fully understood the differences between ASCII and EBCDIC until reading this article. The comparison was illuminating.

  2. A very clear comparison between ASCII and EBCDIC. I have a much better understanding of the differences now!

  3. This article explained the differences between ASCII and EBCDIC in a comprehensive manner. Thank you for the great insight!

  4. The explanation of ASCII and EBCDIC in this article was thorough. I have a new understanding of these character encoding systems.


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