Today’s Obsession: 65,536 Characters

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This, to the casual viewer, is a video of random characters flashing by. To me, it’s a triumph of automated communication—it’s every character in a comprehensive typeface. Technically: it’s every displayable character in a Unicode double-byte face from data positions 0 to 65,536.

This is the current standard of typeface production which became formally available to typographers in 1992, but didn’t see much use until later in the decade.

Before that, typographers were forced to isolate their typefaces into little dribs and drabs of language containing only a few hundred characters. 256 if memory serves. (So the number stated above, 65,536 is 256 × 256).

Now, there’s room in the formal Unicode specification for over a million different characters in a single typeface file, including things as esoteric as Greek musical notation, Western European musical notation, and Egyptian heiroglyphs. It’s beyond cool to me that there’s actually a specification for human language so that devices worldwide can display and perceive it.

The video’s from Jörg Piringer, and was pointed out by my friend Miguel Carvalhais via his Twitter feed. Both are brilliant; spend some time with their sites.