Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code

Definition of Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code

Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC) is a character encoding system primarily used by IBM mainframe computers. It represents alphanumeric characters, punctuation, and control characters using 8-bit binary code, allowing for 256 possible characters. Unlike the more widespread ASCII encoding, EBCDIC sorts non-digit characters differently and has a unique set of control codes, making it less compatible with modern computer systems.


The phonetics of the keyword “Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code” would be:Ehks-tehn-ded // By-nuh-ree // Koh-ded // Deh-si-muhl // Intuhr-cheynj // KohdIt can also be represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as:/ɛkˈstɛndɪd // ˈbaɪnəri // ˈkoʊdɪd // ˈdɛsɪməl // ˌɪntərˈtʃeɪndʒ // koʊd/

Key Takeaways

  1. Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC) is an 8-bit character encoding primarily used in IBM mainframe and midrange systems, allowing the representation of 256 different characters.
  2. EBCDIC was created to be an improvement over the earlier 6-bit Binary Coded Decimal (BCD) and has its origins in the punched card era, which required a unique code for each character to be recognized by computers.
  3. Although EBCDIC is still used within some IBM systems, it has been largely replaced by more modern and universal character encoding standards such as ASCII and Unicode, which are more compatible across different platforms and programming languages.

Importance of Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code

The Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC) is important because it is a character encoding system developed by IBM in the early days of computing, specifically designed for mainframes and other large computer systems.

EBCDIC replaced the earlier BCD (Binary-Coded Decimal) system and allowed computers to process and store characters more efficiently.

As an 8-bit encoding system, it provides an extended set of characters, including digits, letters, punctuation, special symbols, and control codes, thereby improving data communication and compatibility.

Although EBCDIC has largely been replaced by the more universal ASCII and Unicode encoding systems, it remains significant in the context of computing history and is still used in specific IBM mainframe environments today.


Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code, commonly known as EBCDIC, is a character encoding system that was developed by IBM to represent alphanumeric characters and symbols in digital systems. The primary purpose of EBCDIC was to facilitate the easy and efficient exchange of textual information between mainframe computers and other peripheral devices, such as printers and storage devices. In essence, EBCDIC assigns a unique binary code to every character, making it possible for computers to process, store, and transmit human-readable data.

The extended version of EBCDIC adds support for more characters and special symbols, catering to a wider variety of international languages and computing platforms. EBCDIC gained prominence in the realm of mainframe computing during the late 20th century, when IBM mainframe systems dominated the digital landscape. As an integral part of the information chain, EBCDIC-encoded data allowed for seamless communication among devices native to the IBM mainframe ecosystem.

However, with the rise of the internet and increasing reliance on ASCII as the de facto standard for character encoding, EBCDIC’s usage has dwindled considerably. Nevertheless, EBCDIC maintains its relevance in legacy systems and specialized applications where maintaining compatibility with older IBM mainframes is crucial. By promoting efficient interchange of textual data, EBCDIC has significantly contributed to the evolution of digital information processing and computability.

Examples of Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code

Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC) is a character encoding system mainly used in IBM mainframe and midrange computer systems. It was developed as an 8-bit extension of the 6-bit Binary Coded Decimal (BCD) system. Here are three real-world examples where EBCDIC has been employed:

IBM Mainframe Systems: IBM mainframes like the System/360, System/370, and zSeries use EBCDIC as their primary character encoding standard. Mainframe systems are used in various industries, including banking, finance, and government organizations, to process large volumes of data.

IBM AS/400 Systems: IBM AS/400, also known as the IBM iSeries, uses EBCDIC as the primary character encoding standard. These midrange computers are often employed by small to medium-sized businesses for various applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and database management.

Data Conversion between Different Computer Systems: In the past, EBCDIC was commonly used in many legacy systems for data storage and communication. Today, data may still need to be converted between EBCDIC and other character encoding standards, such as ASCII, when transferring information between different computer systems or integrating with modern applications. This conversion is often necessary when migrating or interfacing old and new systems for seamless data exchange and processing.

Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC) FAQ

What is Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC)?

Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC) is an 8-bit character encoding used primarily on IBM mainframe and IBM midrange computer systems. It was developed as an extension of the Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (BCDIC) and includes additional characters to support more complex applications.

How does EBCDIC differ from ASCII?

EBCDIC differs from ASCII in multiple ways, such as having a different set of character codes and using 8 bits per character compared to ASCII’s 7 bits per character. Additionally, EBCDIC is designed for use on IBM mainframe systems, while ASCII is more commonly used across various computer platforms.

What are the applications of EBCDIC?

EBCDIC is mainly used in IBM mainframes and midrange systems for a wide range of applications, including database and file management, data processing, and business applications. Its capabilities enable IBM computer systems to support rich character sets and handle complex data structures.

Can EBCDIC be converted to ASCII?

Yes, EBCDIC can be converted to ASCII through a process known as character encoding conversion or code page translation. Several programming libraries and tools exist to facilitate this conversion, ensuring that information is accurately and consistently transferred between EBCDIC and ASCII encoded systems.

Is EBCDIC still used today?

While it is not as prevalent as it once was, EBCDIC is still used within some IBM mainframe environments and legacy systems. Many modern applications and systems have transitioned to using more universally recognized character encoding standards, such as ASCII or Unicode.

Related Technology Terms

  • Character encoding
  • 8-bit code
  • IBM mainframe
  • Control characters

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