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ASCII reserves the first 32 codes (numbers 0–31 decimal) for control characters: codes originally intended not to represent printable information, but rather to control devices (such as printers) that make use of ASCII, or to provide meta-information about data streams such as those stored on magnetic tape.

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The X3.2 subcommittee designed ASCII based on the earlier teleprinter encoding systems.

Like other character encodings, ASCII specifies a correspondence between digital bit patterns and character symbols (i.e. This allows digital devices to communicate with each other and to process, store, and communicate character-oriented information such as written language.

Most modern character-encoding schemes are based on ASCII, although they support many additional characters.

ASCII is the traditional name for the encoding system; the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) prefers the updated name US-ASCII, which clarifies that this system was developed in the US and based on the typographical symbols predominantly in use there. Its first commercial use was as a seven-bit teleprinter code promoted by Bell data services.

Before ASCII was developed, the encodings in use included 26 alphabetic characters, 10 numerical digits, and from 11 to 25 special graphic symbols.

To include all these, and control characters compatible with the Comité Consultatif International Téléphonique et Télégraphique (CCITT) International Telegraph Alphabet No.

The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) was developed under the auspices of a committee of the American Standards Association (ASA), called the X3 committee, by its X3.2 (later X3L2) subcommittee, and later by that subcommittee's X3.2.4 working group (now INCITS).

The ASA became the United States of America Standards Institute (USASI) 6 and 7 caused the characters to differ in bit pattern from the upper case by a single bit, which simplified case-insensitive character matching and the construction of keyboards and printers.

The committee considered an eight-bit code, since eight bits (octets) would allow two four-bit patterns to efficiently encode two digits with binary-coded decimal.

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