ISO/IEC 8859 is a joint ISO and IEC series of standards for 8-bit character encodings. The series of standards consists of numbered parts, such as ISO/IEC 8859-1, ISO/IEC 8859-2, etc. There are 15 parts, excluding the abandoned ISO/IEC 8859-12. The ISO working group maintaining this series of standards has been disbanded.
ISO/IEC 8859 parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 were originally Ecma International standard ECMA-94.
While the bit patterns of the 95 printable ASCII characters are sufficient to exchange information in modern English, most other languages that use Latin alphabets need additional symbols not covered by ASCII. ISO/IEC 8859 sought to remedy this problem by utilizing the eighth bit in an 8-bit byte to allow positions for another 96 printable characters. Early encodings were limited to 7 bits because of restrictions of some data transmission protocols, and partially for historical reasons. However, more characters were needed than could fit in a single 8-bit character encoding, so several mappings were developed, including at least ten suitable for various Latin alphabets.
The ISO/IEC 8859-n encodings only contain printable characters, and were designed to be used in conjunction with control characters mapped to the unassigned bytes. To this end a series of encodings registered with the IANA add the C0 control set (control characters mapped to bytes 0 to 31) from ISO 646 and the C1 control set (control characters mapped to bytes 128 to 159) from ISO 6429, resulting in full 8-bit character maps with most, if not all, bytes assigned. These sets have ISO-8859-n as their preferred MIME name or, in cases where a preferred MIME name is not specified, their canonical name. Many people use the terms ISO/IEC 8859-n and ISO-8859-n interchangeably. ISO/IEC 8859-11 did not get such a charset assigned, presumably because it was almost identical to TIS 620.
The ISO/IEC 8859 standard is designed for reliable information exchange, not typography; the standard omits symbols needed for high-quality typography, such as optional ligatures, curly quotation marks, dashes, etc. As a result, high-quality typesetting systems often use proprietary or idiosyncratic extensions on top of the ASCII and ISO/IEC 8859 standards, or use Unicode instead.
As a rule of thumb, if a character or symbol was not already part of a widely used data-processing character set and was also not usually provided on typewriter keyboards for a national language, it did not get in. Hence the directional double quotation marks « and » used for some European languages were included, but not the directional double quotation marks “ and ” used for English and some other languages.
French did not get its œ and Œ ligatures because they could be typed as 'oe'. Likewise, Ÿ, needed for all-caps text, was dropped as well. Albeit under different codepoints, these three characters were later reintroduced with ISO/IEC 8859-15 in 1999, which also introduced the new euro sign character €. Likewise Dutch did not get the ĳ and Ĳ letters, because Dutch speakers had become used to typing these as two letters instead.
Romanian did not initially get its Ș/ș and Ț/ț (with comma) letters, because these letters were initially unified with Ş/ş and Ţ/ţ (with cedilla) by the Unicode Consortium, considering the shapes with comma beneath to be glyph variants of the shapes with cedilla. However, the letters with explicit comma below were later added to the Unicode standard and are also in ISO/IEC 8859-16.
Most of the ISO/IEC 8859 encodings provide diacritic marks required for various European languages using the Latin script. Others provide non-Latin alphabets: Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic and Thai. Most of the encodings contain only spacing characters, although the Thai, Hebrew, and Arabic ones do also contain combining characters.
The standard makes no provision for the scripts of East Asian languages (CJK), as their ideographic writing systems require many thousands of code points. Although it uses Latin based characters, Vietnamese does not fit into 96 positions (without using combining diacritics such as in Windows-1258) either. Each Japanese syllabic alphabet (hiragana or katakana, see Kana) would fit, as in JIS X 0201, but like several other alphabets of the world they are not encoded in the ISO/IEC 8859 system.
ISO/IEC 8859 is divided into the following parts:
|1987, 1998||ECMA-94 (1985, 1986)||Perhaps the most widely used part of ISO/IEC 8859, covering most Western European languages: Danish (partial),[nb 1] Dutch (partial),[nb 2] English, Faeroese, Finnish (partial),[nb 3] French (partial),[nb 3] German, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Rhaeto-Romanic, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Catalan, and Swedish. Languages from other parts of the world are also covered, including: Eastern European Albanian, Southeast Asian Indonesian, as well as the African languages Afrikaans and Swahili. The missing euro sign and capital Ÿ are in the revised version ISO/IEC 8859-15 (see below). The corresponding IANA character set is ISO-8859-1.|
|1987, 1999||ECMA-94 (1986)||Supports those Central and Eastern European languages that use the Latin alphabet, including Bosnian, Polish, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Serbian, and Hungarian. The missing euro sign can be found in version ISO/IEC 8859-16.|
|1988, 1999||Turkish, Maltese, and Esperanto. Largely superseded by ISO/IEC 8859-9 for Turkish.|
|1988, 1998||Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Greenlandic, and Sami.|
|Part 5||Latin/Cyrillic||1988, 1999||ECMA-113 (1988, 1999)[nb 4]||Covers mostly Slavic languages that use a Cyrillic alphabet, including Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian (partial).[nb 5]|
|Part 6||Latin/Arabic||1987, 1999||ASMO 708 (1986) / ECMA-114 (1986, 2000)||Covers the most common Arabic language characters. Does not support other languages using the Arabic script. Needs to be BiDi and cursive joining processed for display.|
|Part 7||Latin/Greek||1987, 2003||ELOT 928 (1986) / ECMA-118 (1986)||Covers the modern Greek language (monotonic orthography). Can also be used for Ancient Greek written without accents or in monotonic orthography, but lacks the diacritics for polytonic orthography. These were introduced with Unicode.|
|Part 8||Latin/Hebrew||1988, 1999||ECMA-121 (1987, 2000) / SI 1311 (2002)||Covers the modern Hebrew alphabet as used in Israel. In practice two different encodings exist, logical order (needs to be BiDi processed for display) and visual (left-to-right) order (in effect, after bidi processing and line breaking).|
|1989, 1999||ECMA-128 (1988, 1999)||Largely the same as ISO/IEC 8859-1, replacing the rarely used Icelandic letters with Turkish ones.|
|1992, 1998||ECMA-144 (1990, 1992, 2000)||A rearrangement of Latin-4. Considered more useful for Nordic languages. Baltic languages use Latin-4 more.|
|Part 11||Latin/Thai||2001||TIS-620 (1990)||Contains characters needed for the Thai language. Virtually identical to TIS 620.|
|Latin/Devanagari||N/A||-||The work in making a part of 8859 for Devanagari was officially abandoned in 1997. ISCII and Unicode/ISO/IEC 10646 cover Devanagari.|
|1998||-||Added some characters for Baltic languages which were missing from Latin-4 and Latin-6. Related to the existing Windows-1257.|
|1998||-||Covers Celtic languages such as Gaelic and the Breton language.|
|Part 15||Latin-9||1999||-||A revision of 8859-1 that removes some little-used symbols, replacing them with the euro sign € and the letters Š, š, Ž, ž, Œ, œ, and Ÿ, which completes the coverage of French, Finnish and Estonian.|
|2001||-||Intended for Albanian, Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian and Slovene, but also Finnish, French, German and Irish Gaelic (new orthography). The focus lies more on letters than symbols. The currency sign is replaced with the euro sign.|
Each part of ISO/IEC 8859 is designed to support languages that often borrow from each other, so the characters needed by each language are usually accommodated by a single part. However, there are some characters and language combinations that are not accommodated without transcriptions. Efforts were made to make conversions as smooth as possible. For example, German has all of its seven special characters at the same positions in all Latin variants (1–4, 9, 10, 13–16), and in many positions the characters only differ in the diacritics between the sets. In particular, variants 1–4 were designed jointly, and have the property that every encoded character appears either at a given position or not at all.
|1010 0000||240||160||A0||Non-breaking space (NBSP)|
|1010 1101||255||173||AD||Soft hyphen (SHY)||ญ||SHY|
At position 0xA0 there's always the non breaking space and 0xAD is mostly the soft hyphen, which only shows at line breaks. Other empty fields are either unassigned or the system used is not able to display them.
Since 1991, the Unicode Consortium[nb 5] has been working with ISO and IEC to develop the Unicode Standard and ISO/IEC 10646: the Universal Character Set (UCS) in tandem. Newer editions of ISO/IEC 8859 express characters in terms of their Unicode/UCS names and the U+nnnn notation, effectively causing each part of ISO/IEC 8859 to be a Unicode/UCS character encoding scheme that maps a very small subset of the UCS to single 8-bit bytes. The first 256 characters in Unicode and the UCS are identical to those in ISO/IEC-8859-1 (Latin-1).
Single-byte character sets including the parts of ISO/IEC 8859 and derivatives of them were favoured throughout the 1990s, having the advantages of being well-established and more easily implemented in software: the equation of one byte to one character is simple and adequate for most single-language applications, and there are no combining characters or variant forms. As Unicode-enabled operating systems became more widespread, ISO/IEC 8859 and other legacy encodings became less popular. While remnants of ISO 8859 and single-byte character models remain entrenched in many operating systems, programming languages, data storage systems, networking applications, display hardware, and end-user application software, most modern computing applications use Unicode internally, and rely on conversion tables to map to and from other encodings, when necessary.
The ISO/IEC 8859 standard was maintained by ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1, Subcommittee 2, Working Group 3 (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 2/WG 3). In June 2004, WG 3 disbanded, and maintenance duties were transferred to SC 2. The standard is not currently being updated, as the Subcommittee's only remaining working group, WG 2, is concentrating on development of Unicode's Universal Coded Character Set.
[…] According to a urban legend, the French delegate was out sick the day when the standard came up for a vote and had to have his Belgian counterpart act as his proxy. In fact, the French delegate was an engineer, who was convinced that this ligature was useless, and the Swiss and German representatives pressed hard to have the mathematical symbols × and ÷ included at the positions where Œ and œ would logically appear. […]