Behind letters, characters and emoji is Unicode

There’s an interesting New York Times piece on the Unicode standard that’s used by Office, Windows, Mac and other computer systems.

Unicode is the global standard for identifying letters, symbols and characters across many computer systems.  It’s how very different devices can identify the letter A, Euro currency symbol or even a Recycling symbol in messages and document. It’s the global extension of the original ASCII system which only allowed for 255 characters.

Emoji are a special case

Unicode does not list all emoji, not by a long stretch.  Companies are regularly adding emoji, in particular Apple.  Those emoji only work with compatible devices and operating systems.

Even when an emoji is given a slot in the Unicode list, it can look very different depending on the device and version of operating system.  Here’s the ‘Smiling Face with Smiling Eyes’ emoji, the Windows/Outlook 2016 version at left and the Apple/iPhone 7 version on right.

The left emoji appears if you type  :)  in Word 2016.

Both of those symbols are Unicode symbol 1F60A but they look very different.

Be careful with emoji because they can look very different in emails and documents, depending on the device and operating system used by the receiver.

Unicode’s own reference table shows the wide variation of design for a single emoji.

So many different languages

The NYT article shows the amazing effort of people to include in Unicode characters for lesser known languages.  Hanifi Rohingya, used by the badly treated Rohingya people of Myanmar will be added to the next major Unicode revision.

Already included in Unicode are Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Musical Notation among many.

 

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