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Baudot code

The Baudot code, named after its inventor Émile Baudot, is a character set predating EBCDIC and ASCII and used originally and primarily on teleprinters.

Baudot's original code, developed around 1874 is known as International Telegraph Alphabet No 1, and is no longer used. It was sent using a five-key keyboard where each key represented one bit of the five state signal. A mechanical wiper would scan the keyboard state and unlock the keys allowing the operator to enter the next character.

Around 1901 Baudot's code was modified by Donald Murray by re-ordering the characters, adding extra characters and shift codes. Murray's re-ordering of the characters was prompted by his development of a typewriter-like keyboard. Since the layout of the bits was now disassociated from the keypress of the operator, Murray could arrange his code-set so that the most-used characters resulted in the fewest state transitions, minimizing wear on the equipment.

A further modification of Murray's code mostly by Western Union consisted of dropping some characters. This final modification is what is generally known as the 'Baudot code', also known as the International Telegraph Alphabet No 2 (ITA2). ITA2 is still used in TDDs and some ham radio applications, such as RTTY.

NOTE: This table presumes the space called "1" by Baudot and Murray is rightmost, and least significant. The actual order of transmission varied by manufacturer.

Table of ITA2 codepoints (hexadecimal)

In ITA2, characters are expressed using five bits. ITA2 uses two code sub-sets, the "letter shift" (LTRS), and the "figure shift" (FIGS). The FIGS character (11011) signals that the following code is to be interpreted as being in the FIGS set, until this is reset by the LTRS (11111) character. "ENQuiry" will trigger the other machine's answerback. It means "Who are you?" Code points 0D, 14 and 1A are not used in telex communication.

CR is carriage return, LF is linefeed, BELL is the bell, SP is space, and STOP is the stop character.

Note: the binary conversions of the codepoints are often shown in reverse order, depending on (presumably) which side you are viewing the papertape from. Note further that the "control" characters were chosen so that they were either symmetric or in useful pairs so that inserting a tape "upside down" did not result in problems for the equipment and the resulting printout could be deciphered.

FIGS (11011), LTRS (11111) and space (00100) are invariant, while CR (11000) and LF (00011), generally used as a pair, result in the same output when the tape is reversed.

US American implementations of Baudot code may differ in the use of ENQ, +, and f,g,h on the FIGS layer. The above table represents the official ITA2 code.


This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing and is used under the GFDL.

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45