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> "It was initially designed for telecommunications, having spawned from telegraph code so it’s a bit odd that such an old idea would be incorporated in computers"

I don't think ASCII was designed for telecommunications. I think it was designed as a data processing standard from the beginning. Here's a quote from a 1960 CACM article, concerning X3.2 committee which developed ASCII, from http://www.ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/SurveyCodedCharacterRepre... :

> Technical Committee 97 of the International Standards Organization (ISO) is concerned with standards in data processing. The American Standards Association holds the secretariat of this committee. Sectional Committee X3 of A.S.A. is responsible for national data processing standards in the U.S.A. ...

> The primary aims in publishing this chart are: l) To indicate to the information processing industry why standardization is vital in this area. ...

Eric Fischer, who is an HN reader, wrote this paper on the development of ASCII, at http://trafficways.org/ascii/ascii.pdf :

> These codes were used for decades before the appearance of computers and the changing needs of communications required the design and standardization of a new code. ...

Page 11 show how computers were the impetus behind ASCII: "communications equipment would otherwise invariably use a version of International Telegraph Alphabet No. 2, while computer makers would not even consider using it because of the nonsensical order of its characters when sorted by their binary codes (Figure 29)."

It's hard to read through Fischer's paper and conclude that ASCII "was initially designed for telecommunications".

> "have fallen into the same trap that quite a number of American computer scientists fell into"

The ASCII designers were well aware of the needs of non-American use. Page 24 of Fischer's paper shows the input from German, Portuguese, and Russian speakers as ASCII became an ISO standard - the I being "International". Elsewhere shows input from other still other countries.

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