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# What Does Alphanumeric Mean?

Communication and communication devices use the alphanumeric system.
Consumers are urged to have alphanumeric passwords.
Roman numerals were replaced by the Alphanumeric system that features numerals zero through nine.
Article Details
• Written By: Mary McMahon
• Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
2003-2015
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The term “alphanumeric” is used to refer to the collective set of 26 Latin letters and 10 Arabic numerals used by many nations around the world. The text in this article is alphanumeric, as it includes both letters and numbers. Often, consumers are also encouraged to use such codes as passwords, as codes that mix letters and numbers are typically more difficult to break than those with just one or the other. Many human communications use this code, just as many people do every time they write down their name and phone number or give someone their address.

Arabic numerals have been used to record numbers for centuries, although they did not reach the West until around the 12th century. It took several more centuries for numerals to become widely accepted. In addition to serving as an efficient and easier to read alternative to Roman numerals, Arabic numbers also contained the important concept of zero. There are ten digits, meaning that the numeral system they represent is a base 10 number system.

The Latin alphabet has also been in development for centuries and is widely used for written communication in many languages. Early attempts at using the Latin alphabet for numbers, including Roman numerals, were less than successful. While it is, of course, possible to write out numbers in the Latin alphabet, the adoption of Arabic numerals represented a significant improvement in communications and mathematics. By using both, people could greatly improve their ability to communicate with one another.

The alphanumeric set of 36 letters and numbers, with an additional 26 lower case letters, is the basis of communications for many people all over the world. Combinations can be used to convey or secure information, and they play a very important role in encryption and decryption of data. This data is used in computer coding, to create passwords, and in security algorithms. The almost globally recognized Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals also make written material easy to read and interpret, with the addition of standardized punctuation.

In computing, alphanumeric characters take up six bits of information, rather than eight bits, which is typical with many other information storage systems. For this reason, less storage space is required for the information, making it more efficient. Especially when material is in a primarily textual form, using six bit storage systems makes more sense than eight bit codes, such as ASCII.

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