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Re: [xml-dev] What is text?
• From: Rick Jelliffe <rjelliffe@allette.com.au>
• To: "Roger L. Costello" <costello@mitre.org>
• Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2015 18:05:15 +1000

Text is data encoded based on some human writing system. (Contrast with binary, which is not a human writing system; or with hex which is binary written with codes developed for a human writing system. )

In markup, "Text" often is used in signify that the data does not necessarily conform to third-normal-formish rules like atomicity.

Cheers
Rick

On 12/06/2015 7:36 PM, "Costello, Roger L." <costello@mitre.org> wrote:

Hi Folks,

What is text?

"Well, it's words. It's how we express ourselves. It's the majesty of life."

When text is given to a computer, it is not words. It's just numbers. For example, here's how the text Hello is typically stored in a computer (the numbers in the boxes denote hex values):

Whatever text you enter from the keyboard eventually gets converted to numbers inside the computer.

The notion that there are words or sentences or poetry in the computer is purely a fiction.

That's pretty astonishing, but even more astonishing is how little the computer can do with text:

If you input a number into the computer you can at least perform arithmetic on it. Not so with text.

With text you can only do mind-blowingly trivial things like:

-          Check to see if the first character equals H? Er, rather, is the first byte equal to hex 48?

-          Check to see if the string equals Hello? Er, rather, do the five bytes match hex 48, 65, 6C, 6C, 6F, respectively?

-          Request a substring: the first three characters. Er, rather, give me the first three bytes.

That is an appalling limited set of things that computers can do with text. This set of operations is not impressive: compare bytes, retrieve bytes, insert more bytes.

Yet, it is remarkable how much we humans have accomplished using such a simple, mindless system.

/Roger

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