Alphanumeric Code : Types, Advantages & Its Applications

Earlier computers were only used for calculations but the present computers are used for numeric representation and also information like addresses, names, descriptions of items, etc. So such kind of information can be represented with symbols & letters. Generally, the computer is a digital system that deals with zeros and ones. To deal with symbols & letters, computers use alphanumeric codes. To signify alphanumeric information like a series of zeros and ones, There numerous coding methods have been invented but the most commonly used alphanumeric codes are; ASCII, EBCDIC. & UNICODE, where UNICODE was developed to conquer the limitation of partial character encoding in ASCII & EBCDIC codes. This article discusses an overview of alphanumeric code, its types, and its applications.

What is Alphanumeric Code?

Binary codes which are used for representing alphanumeric data like numbers & alphabetic characters are known as alphanumeric coded or character codes. These codes simply write alphanumeric data like alphabet letters, mathematical symbols, punctuation marks, and numbers in an understandable form by a computer. By using these codes, we can interface I/O devices like monitors, keyboards, and printers with a laptop. These codes also represent other characters like symbols & different required instructions for transmitting the information. An alphanumeric code should at least represent 10 digits and 26 letters of the alphabet i.e. total of 36 items. The following three alphanumeric codes are very commonly used for data representation.

Types of Alphanumeric Code

Alphanumeric codes are classified into different types which are discussed below.

ASCII Code

The term ASCII stands for “American Standard Code for Information Interchange” and it was first published in 1967 & after that, it is being changed & updated. It is a type of alphanumeric seven-bit code depending on the English alphabet. This code represents text within computers, equipment in telecommunications, etc. ASCII has presently 128 code points where simply 95 characters are printable which limited severely its scope due to computer systems technical limitations at the invented time. The ASCII code is extensively used within data communication and it is almost found in bigger computers. Some of the ASCII Codes are listed below.

 Decimal Binary HEX OCT Symbol Description 0 00000000 0 0 NUL It is a null character. 1 00000001 01 001 SOH Start of Heading 2 00000010 02 002 STX Start of Text 3 00000011 03 003 ETX End of Text 4 00000100 04 004 EOT End of Transmission 5 00000101 05 005 ENQ Enquiry 6 00000110 06 006 ACK Acknowledgment 7 00000111 07 007 BEL Bell 8 00001000 08 008 BS Back Space

Applications

The applications of ASCII code include the following.

• ASCII code provides a commonly accepted & understood character set mainly for fundamental data communications.
• ASCII is a standard data-encoding format used for electronic communication in between different computers.
• It is an extensively used standard used mainly for encoding text documents above computers.
• ASCII code was developed for standardizing coding systems between computers and helps in reducing incompatibilities of communication across several computers.
• ASCII code is mainly used for representing text within computers & assigns typical numeric values to characters, numbers, punctuation marks, a variety of control characters & blank space characters.
• These types of codes simply allow different computers to convert one language to another language by converting the characters from equivalent into numerical equivalent.
• It also changes computer text into human-readable text.

EBCDIC Code

The EBCDIC is an “Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code invented by IBM to represent numerals, characters-letters, symbols, and punctuation marks within computerized text. In this code, a character can be represented by 8-bit. This code is used by all the IBM peripherals, computers, and mid-range computer OS. EBCDIC is an 8-bit code that accommodates 256 characters. EBCDIC code was modified from the character codes utilized in electronic punched card machines.

EBCDIC code uses 8 bits but it splits into two sets of four bits each. These are signified by a number system called hexadecimal which is utilized by computers. The EBCDIC code is the best example of a non-ASCII code. The IBM mainframes operating systems & midrange computers are the main environments where this code is performed. Some of the EBCDIC code characters are listed below.

 Char HEX EBCDIC Char HEX EBCDIC Char HEX EBCDIC A C 1 11000001 P D7 11010111 4 F4 11110100 B C 2 11000010 Q D8 11011000 5 F5 11110101 C C 3 11000011 R D9 11011001 6 F6 11110110 D C 4 11000100 S E2 11100010 7 F7 11110111 E C 5 11000101 T E3 11100011 8 F8 11111000 F C 6 11000110 U E4 11100100 9 F9 11111001

Applications

The applications of the EBCDIC Code include the following.

• EBCDIC code is used on IBM mid-range computer OS & IBM mainframe.
• EBCDIC is used typically on its computers that utilize a unique 8-bit binary code for each number, alphabetic character, punctuation marks, nonalphabetic characters & accented letters.
• The EBCDIC code is an extended binary code used for IBM mainframes, mid-range computers, & peripheral devices that utilize eight bits in place of the unique 6-bit format.

Unicode

Unicode is the latest concept within digital coding and is an encoding standard of international characters that gives a unique number for each character across scripts and languages which makes nearly all characters accessible across programs, devices & platforms. This code is adopted by leading technological giants for its uniqueness.

This standard code includes approximately 100000 characters to signify different language characters. Unicode utilizes four bytes to signify characters whereas ASCII code uses one byte only. Therefore, it provides an extremely wide range of encoding.

This code simply offers a unique number for every character like punctuation marks, technical symbols, mathematical symbols, characters & arrows making up non-Latin alphabets like Thai, Arabic script, or Chinese. Unicode can be maintained by a non-profit organization like the Unicode Consortium that exists to expand & support the Unicode Standard. The Unicode Standard & ISO/IEC 10646 simply supports three encoding forms; UTF-8, UTF-16 & UTF-32 which utilize a common range of characters & allow for encoding a million characters. From them, UTF-8 is generally used for several programming languages. Some of the Unicode characters are listed below.

 0 1 2 3 4 5 0A 0B 0C 0D 0E 0020 ! “ # \$ % * + , – . 0040 @ A B C D E J K L M N 0060 ` a b c d e j k l m n 0080 € – ‚ f “ … Š ‹ Œ Ž – 00A0 ¡ ¢ £ ¤ ¥ ª « ¬ – ® 00C0 À Á Â Ã Ä Å Ê Ë Ì Í Î 000E à á â ã ä å ê ë ì í î

Applications

The applications of Unicode include the following.

• The Unicode provides a simple way to let a single application for handling any character set or language.
• Unicode allows developers to write many applications which support several scripts at the same time.
• This code is used in all browsers internally & changes all other encodings to Unicode for processing.

File Hash

• A file hash is a fixed-length string of characters that is generated by applying a cryptographic hash function to the contents of a file. This hash is unique to the specific content of the file. Even a small change in the content of the file will result in a significantly different hash value.

Purpose of File Hashes:

• File hashes are used for various purposes, including:
• Data Integrity: By comparing the hash of a downloaded file with the original hash provided by the source, you can determine if the file has been altered or corrupted during transfer.
• Verification: Software vendors often provide hash values for their files so users can verify that they are downloading legitimate and unmodified software.
• Security: Hashes are used in password storage and digital signatures to enhance security.

Common Hash Algorithms:

• Hash algorithms are mathematical functions that take an input (such as a file) and produce a fixed-length string of characters (the hash value). Common hash algorithms include:
• MD5 (Message-Digest Algorithm 5): Although widely used in the past, MD5 is now considered weak due to vulnerabilities that allow for collision attacks (finding different inputs that produce the same hash).
• SHA-1 (Secure Hash Algorithm 1): Like MD5, SHA-1 is also considered weak and vulnerable to collision attacks.
• SHA-256 (Secure Hash Algorithm 256): Part of the SHA-2 family, SHA-256 is widely used and considered secure. It produces a 256-bit (32-byte) hash value.

Generating and Checking File Hashes:

• To generate a hash for a file, you need to use a hash calculation tool or a command-line utility that applies a specific hash algorithm to the file’s content. The resulting hash value is a hexadecimal or alphanumeric code.

• Compare the generated hash with the provided hash. If they match, the file is likely intact.

Example:

• Let’s say we  have a file named “document.txt.” one can use a hash generator to create an SHA-256 hash of the file’s content. The resulting hash might look something like this: e1c11a2f3f5a8dcb6c8c843f62369f60e3d3e84c15981985c0e07f1a24bc3eaf. If the file is modified, even by a single character, the hash will be completely different.

Product Keys and Serial Numbers:

Alphanumeric codes are commonly used in product keys and serial numbers as a way to uniquely identify and license software, products, or devices. These codes play a crucial role in controlling access to software or services and preventing unauthorized use. Here’s how alphanumeric codes are used in product keys and serial numbers:

Unique Identification:

• Alphanumeric codes in product keys and serial numbers are designed to be unique combinations of letters (alphabetic characters) and numbers (numeric characters). Each code is created in a way that minimizes the likelihood of duplication, ensuring that no two products have the same key.

Licensing and Activation:

• Product keys and serial numbers are often used to activate software or access specific features. When you purchase a software license, you’re provided with a product key. This key is then used during installation or activation to verify that you have a valid license to use the software. The software checks the key against a database to ensure it’s legitimate.

Preventing Piracy:

• Alphanumeric codes in product keys serve as a deterrent against software piracy. Without a valid key, users can’t easily gain access to the full features of the software, reducing the incentive to use pirated copies.

Control and Tracking:

• Manufacturers use alphanumeric codes to keep track of the distribution and use of their products. This helps in managing licenses and support.

Variability and Complexity:

• The format of product keys can vary widely. Some keys are simple strings of characters, while others are more complex, including different groups of characters (e.g., XXXX-XXXX-XXXX) or using a mix of upper and lower case letters. The complexity adds another layer of security.

Offline and Online Activation:

• Product keys can be used for both offline and online activation. In offline activation, the user enters the key during installation. In online activation, the software communicates with a server to verify the key and activate the software.

• Some product keys and serial numbers also encode additional information, such as the version of the software, the edition, the duration of the license, and more.

Recovery and Reinstallation:

It can also be used for recovery and reinstallation purposes. If a user needs to reinstall the software or move it to a different device, they can use their original product key.

ENCODING OF ALPHANUMERIC CODE TO BARCODE OR QRCODE:

Alphanumeric codes can be encoded into barcode and QR code formats using specific encoding schemes. Here’s a basic overview of how alphanumeric codes are encoded into both barcode and QR code formats:

Barcode:

Barcodes are visual representations of data that can be read by optical scanners. Different types of barcode symbologies exist, and each has its own rules for encoding alphanumeric characters. One common symbology is the Code 128 barcode.

1. Choose the Symbology: Select the appropriate barcode symbology for encoding your alphanumeric code. For example, Code 128 is a high-density barcode that supports a wide range of characters.
2. Convert to Numeric Equivalents: Many barcode symbologies use numeric values for encoding. Therefore, alphanumeric characters need to be converted to their corresponding numeric values. This is often done using ASCII values, where each character is assigned a numeric code.
3. Add Start and Stop Characters: Barcode symbologies usually require start and stop characters to indicate the beginning and end of the code. These characters help scanners identify the start and end points of the data.
4. Encode Data and Generate Barcode: Using the numeric equivalents and start/stop characters, encode the data according to the rules of the selected symbology. Special patterns of bars and spaces are created based on the encoded data.
5. Display or Print Barcode: The generated barcode pattern can be displayed on a screen or printed on labels, packaging, or other materials. Scanners can read the pattern optically to retrieve the encoded alphanumeric code.

QR Code:

QR codes (Quick Response codes) are two-dimensional matrix barcodes that can store more information than traditional linear barcodes. QR codes can encode a wide range of data types, including alphanumeric text.

1. Select QR Code Generator: Use a QR code generator tool or library to encode your alphanumeric code into a QR code. There are various online tools and software libraries available that can assist with this process.
2. Enter Data: Enter the alphanumeric code you want to encode into the QR code generator.
3. Generate QR Code: Once you enter the data, the generator will process it and generate a QR code pattern that encodes the data.
4. Display or Print QR Code: The generated QR code can be displayed on screens, printed on physical media, or integrated into various materials.
5. Scanning: QR code scanners, including those on smartphones, can read the QR code’s pattern to extract the encoded data. The decoded data can be a URL, text, contact information, or any other type of information encoded in the QR code.

GUID’S

GUIDs (Globally Unique Identifiers) are a type of alphanumeric code used to uniquely identify resources in computing systems. However, unlike traditional alphanumeric codes, GUIDs follow specific algorithms to ensure a high likelihood of global uniqueness. Let’s see how alphanumeric codes are used in GUIDs:

• Alphanumeric Representation: A GUID is typically represented as a string of 32 hexadecimal characters grouped in five sections, separated by hyphens. Each hexadecimal digit represents 4 bits, and a full GUID consists of 128 bits.
• Component Structure: GUIDs consist of various components, including timestamp, version number, variant, and a unique identifier. These components are encoded in the alphanumeric representation.
• Timestamp and Version: The timestamp component of a GUID represents the time when the GUID was generated. This ensures uniqueness even if two GUIDs are generated in quick succession. The version component indicates the algorithm used to generate the GUID.
• Variant and Node: The variant component defines the variant of the GUID. The node component is often based on the MAC address of the generating device and helps ensure uniqueness among different devices generating GUIDs.
• Algorithmic Generation: The alphanumeric representation of GUIDs is derived from the various components and their encoded values. Algorithms are used to generate each component and combine them to create the final GUID.
• Uniqueness: GUIDs are designed to have a very low probability of collision (generating the same identifier for different resources). This is achieved by using elements like timestamps, random numbers, and MAC addresses.
• Usage: GUIDs are used as identifiers in various computing contexts, including database records, distributed systems, file systems, and more. They provide a way to uniquely identify resources without needing centralized coordination.
• Character Set: The hexadecimal character set (0-9 and A-F) is used for encoding GUIDs. This provides a compact representation of the binary data while allowing easy conversion to and from binary.
• Human Readability: While the alphanumeric representation of GUIDs is not designed for easy human readability, it’s still human-readable to some extent. The hyphen-separated groups of characters help users distinguish different sections of the GUID.
• Machine Processing: GUIDs are primarily meant for machine processing and system identification. They are used by software systems and applications to uniquely identify resources in a distributed and decentralized manner.

GUIDs use alphanumeric encoding to represent unique identifiers in computing systems. The use of algorithms and specific components ensures that GUIDs are highly likely to be globally unique, even when generated across different devices and over time.

Media Access Control (MAC) addresses are alphanumeric codes assigned to network interfaces, such as network adapters and wireless cards. They are used to uniquely identify devices on a network.

URLs:

Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) often contain alphanumeric codes to represent characters that are not allowed in plain text. For example, %20 represents a space in a URL.

The advantages of alphanumeric codes are;

• These are helpful in website formatting, password creation & PINs for accounts & coding sequences within the programming language.
• These codes are applicable in different fields like mathematics, scientific & computer science fields.
• These codes help in communicating with each other.
• These codes help in interfacing with computers & also other devices like mouse, keyboard, gamepad, microphone, camera, touchscreen, etc.

The disadvantages of alphanumeric codes are;

• It has limited character encoding in the case of ASCII & EBCDIC codes.
• An alphanumeric code must represent at least 10 digits & 26 alphabet letters which is a total of 36 items.
• Alphanumeric codes are harder to crack as compared to those that include just letters.
• These codes are harder to create & remember.

Thus, this is an overview of alphanumeric code, types, and applications. These codes write alphanumeric data like alphabet letters, numbers, mathematical symbols & punctuation marks in an easily understood form by a computer. These codes are helpful in interfacing I/P devices like monitors, mouse & keyboards. These codes are used for representing alphanumeric data. Here is a question for you, what is Morse code?